Garth Davis’ sci-fi psychological thriller film ‘Foe’ invites the viewers into the lives of a married couple who face an uncertain and entrancing predicament when confronted with a strange proposal. In the future, where humanity’s greed has more-or-less ravaged Earth, Hen and Junior live quiet, monotonous lives on their family’s farmland. One night, the arrival of a stranger brings a metamorphic change for the couple when the stranger, Terrance, reveals that Outermore has conscripted Junior to be one of the candidates to live aboard a revolutionary space station. However, to ensure Hen’s happiness in her husband’s absence, the company wants to create a near-perfect robotic substitute for Junior.
As a result, the consequences of Junior’s helpless departure and approaching replacement loom over his marriage with Hen, tormenting their already tumultuous relationship. During the course of their story, the couple undergoes intense emotions that could easily poison any bond. Haunted by feelings of isolation, envy, and predestined detachment, will the couple survive this test or fall apart? SPOILERS AHEAD!
Hen’s Disconnect From Junior
As the story begins, the audience can immediately sense some tension between Hen and Junior. The woman seems to be on guard around her husband, who remains more than a little frantic at Terrance’s arrival. Neither takes the news of Junior’s enlistment into the space station well, but Hen still seems resigned to it compared to Junior’s incredulity. The distance between them further makes itself known when Hen asks Junior to leave their marital bed to her for the night and sleep in the guest bedroom.
Over the next few days, Hen and Junior orbit around each other in differing trajectories. Whatever had led Hen to become weary of Junior warms a little, and they fall back into a loving relationship. Nevertheless, Terrance’s abrupt return to their lives breaks the fragile peace between them. The man, a known bearer of bad news, brings much of the same for the couple on his second visit. Junior has to leave for the space station in weeks.
Worse yet, Terrance is to stay with the couple in the lead-up to Junior’s departure to learn about the man and his relationship with Hen to craft his perfect biological replacement. The affection Hen and Junior have nurtured between them in the past days now promises a more bitter goodbye. Still, neither seems willing to waste their precious time together. Stealing moments of tenderness between arguments and tense developments, Hen and Junior’s relationship maintains a constant push and pull.
Meanwhile, Junior’s interview sessions with Terrance become increasingly worrisome, driving the former to the edge of mania upon the latter’s invasive and manipulative questions. In his own spiral, Junior finds comfort in Hen and talks of running away with her to a new life. Hen, for her part, is still relatively distant, as if weary of some greater truth. Thus, Junior’s dreams crumble when, one night, he eavesdrops on a conversation between Hen and Terrance, hearing his wife talking about her desire to leave him.
The confrontation that follows leaves Junior more than a little hysterical, attempting to cling to his wife and save their drowning marriage. Hen remains worried about her husband and attempts to comfort him even as her previous statement hangs in the air. Nevertheless, the next day brings a startling discovery that answers everything about Junior and Hen’s taut marriage.
Artificially Crafted Romance
After following Hen and Junior’s relationship, in its downspirals and better moments, the narrative delivers a cruel twist: the Junior we have been following all this time is actually the AI version of the man. Hen’s real husband, the human Junior, has been up in Outermore’s space station, while AI Junior was planted in his place to test out the technology. Furthermore, the company wants to create a realistic human substitute, down to replicating human emotions and feelings. Therefore, they used AI Junior to observe how their robot would fare in a human relationship.
AI Junior was kept in the dark about his reality and made to believe he was the real Junior to ensure optimum results. Thus, now that the experiment is complete alongside Human Junior’s stay at the space station, Outermore is ready to extract AI Junior from the equation. In the end, the company had been a little too good at replicating human emotions since AI Junior is beyond devastated at the revelation and screams for Hen as he’s deactivated.
Likewise, Hen, who has always known the truth about AI Junior, has to be dragged away from the bot kicking and screaming. Despite all odds, the two had grown to love and care for each other. AI Junior may be a bot, but he remembers his programmed memory of a life with Hen as brazenly as the real thing. Furthermore, the days they have spent together have left a great impact on both Hen and AI Junior, rendering their goodbye heartbreaking.
Still, the worst comes after Outermore takes AI Junior away, and Hen has to return to her life with the Human Junior. Although Hen’s initial distance from AI Junior came from her knowledge of his artificial nature, there was always something more at play. Hen doubted her marriage even before Human Junior’s departure to space. Earlier, when Terrance interviewed the couple to learn about Junior and his relationship in Outermore’s quest to create his AI version, Hen tells the man about her fantasy of running away.
Hen believes there’s something more out there for her of greater significance than her life on the vapid farmland. The woman married Junior at a young age, when both were fresh out of high school, simply following tradition. Therefore, even though the couple can be happy together, they seldom are.
Junior wants to stay on his generational farm, which houses his entire family’s graveyard, and Hen yearns to escape. Hen adores the piano, but Junior is annoyed by the way she expresses herself through music. For the same reason, AI Junior, who was just different enough from the real thing, suited Hen so well. Hen may assure Junior that she fell in love with the parts of him she could see in his AI version, but the same couldn’t be farther from the truth.
As such, after Human Junior’s return, a vast bridge remains built between him and his wife. Junior detests Hen for cheating on him, and Hen detests Junior for not being what she needs. Where AI Junior had promised to run away with her, the real Junior can’t imagine starting a new life.
Eventually, one night, heavy rain takes over the farm, symbolizing new beginnings. Hen attempts to use it as a tool to bridge the gap between them and fall back in love as they did on the day of their wedding when they said their vows to each other under rainy clouds. Nevertheless, Junior only scorns her for her gleeful, carefree behavior, leaving her alone in wet, muddied clothes.
Ultimately, the instance becomes the last straw for Hen, who leaves the next morning with only a letter addressed to Junior, left behind. The letter is empty, saying nothing and everything all at once. She couldn’t live with Junior any longer and didn’t want to explain herself. Therefore, Hen leaves Junior and boards a plane to travel around the world and find a more meaningful life.
Meanwhile, Junior searches everywhere for Hen, unable to go on without her. Their marriage was flawed and devoid of the same love it possessed in the early days. Yet, Junior wants stability and consistency. He wants to live a life he’s always lived and needs Hen to do the same. Consequently, after witnessing his turmoil from the shadows, Terrance decides to bestow one last gift upon Junior: an AI robot of Hen.
At first, Junior believes the woman has simply returned for him, and they live a happy life together. Still, one day, when AI Hen notes her fascination with a beetle bug, some part of Junior realizes the woman is not actually his wife. Still, instead of confronting the truth, Junior chooses to live in denial, returning to a blissful life with AI Hen. In the end, Hen and Junior don’t end up together but find satisfaction in the other’s artificially created human substitute.
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