Tribeca 2018: Zoe

Lea Seydoux as Zoe and Ewan McGregor as Cole in ZOE. Photo credit: John Guleserian.

Zoe is a film that mixes science fiction with romance in a way that makes it stand apart from the likes of Her.

Relationist Labs’s main goal is to create the perfect lover so to speak.  Among their founders, Cole Ainsley (Ewan McGregor) is an engineer who is heavily focused on designing synthetic robots that make for the perfect romantic lover.  Zoe (Léa Seydoux) is one of his designs but ever since she was turned online, she didn’t have a clue that she was a synthetic.

Ash (Theo James) is one of the next levels in the scientific evolution of synthetics.  Looking human on the outside, Ash is designed to be the perfect companion.  He’s designed to love and feel among other things.

“Machines don’t feel the way humans do,” Zoe tells Ash, not knowing at the time that she’s actually synthetic like him.

Every now and then Zoe looks into the computer to see if she and Cole are compatible, only to discover that they are “fundamentally incompatible.”  It’s only after taking Cole to The Uncanny Valley, a brothel, in that Cole tells her the dreaded truth.  Life comes crashing down on her all of a sudden with this whole new reality.  Unlike Ash, Zoe wasn’t designed for love and yet she’s evolved in so many ways to where she does feel this sense of love for Cole.  As she feels one way, Cole is reluctant because she’s synthetic.  He confides in Emma (Rashida Jones) about his feelings and she suggests he get over it.

As Cole deals with his internal issues, there’s a new drug, Benysol, on the market.  It’s designed to create that euphoric feeling of falling in love for the first time.  It’s a drug that people are taking as a way of hooking up temporarily, even if it’s not a long-term relationship.  Using drugs like these in order to hook up are so wrong on every way.  Where Zoe turns to taking Benysol to feel less alone, Cole can’t feel any love without it.

The film makes an interesting premise in that what if you could design the perfect lover.  It’s as if these synthetics are the 3-D printer for online dating apps and websites.  That said, what would happen if they evolve to the point in which something goes inevitably wrong.  G-d forbid that they turn on their human companions.

It would be nice to see relationships lasting forever but the honest reality is that these perfect companions should remain science fiction.  There’s a question of why would anyone even consider having a synthetic companion as their permanent lover?  This isn’t to say it’s a bad film because it isn’t.  It leads viewers to question a lot about science and love.

At it’s core, Zoe is centered on a forbidden love story set during a future nobody in the right mind wants to see come to fruition.

DIRECTOR:  Drake Doremus
SCREENWRITERS:  Richard Greenberg
CAST:  Lea Seydoux, Ewan McGregor, Christina Aguilera, Rashida Jones, Theo James, Miranda Otto

An official selection of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Zoe premiered as the Centerpiece Gala.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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