The emergence of AI technology and the possibilities it offers is often looked at through a very technical lens: how will it affect our jobs? What will it power? Can it generate original thought? Although, its role in human relationships, and its reflections of our beliefs about love, value and reality are less considered.
Australian director Garth Davis, who brought us the Academy Award-nominated film Lion and Joaquin Pheonix’s Jesus in Mary Magdalene, is ramping up the focus on relationships and AI in his third film, Foe.
Based on the book by Iain Reid, Foe is a future-infused drama set on a remote farm in Midwest America in 2065, where husband and wife couple Junior and Hen (Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan) are invited to be part of a project that will send Junior off to live on a space station, while Hen is accompanied by his replica robot.
It’s an incredibly clever movie. At face value Foe intermingles the story of a marriage weathered by ungratefulness with the possibilities of artificial life but holds layers of thought around our interest in programmable consciousness, designing free will and the appeal of replacing reality.
“In some ways we’re rejecting the physical body in society,” Garth told Hope 103.2.
“We’re becoming more in our minds in virtual realities, and where does the human sit in all of that? Does it make us happier?”
Foe doesn’t promise answers but provides a beautifully crafted backdrop to consider questions we increasingly can’t ignore.
Foe doesn’t promise answers but provides a beautifully crafted backdrop to consider questions we increasingly can’t ignore, hinting at a lack of gratefulness driving our disconnection from each other and the planet.
“[Foe] focuses on a relationship that is affected over time,” Garth said.
“There’s not an inciting incident [between Junior and Hen], and I think we can all relate to it: in a relationship over time, we can take each other for granted and we lose a sense of our urgency and our identity.
“You suddenly find yourself unhappy, or somewhere you don’t want to be.”
In recent years, movies like The Creator and even Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning have touched on the implications of a world informed by AI, but Foe does the audience a favour by sidestepping the noise of the blockbusters and dwelling on the human heartbeat of that imagined future.
“[Foe] in its simplicity is saying that if you take something for granted, you’re going to lose it,” Garth said.
“We have a responsibility to all things that are living. Not just ourselves and our relationships, but the planet and, also weirdly, these sentient things we’re going to start creating.”
As AI emerges, it’s not just a matter of whether we should pursue its development, but why we would.
“Hopefully [Foe] will awaken that part of yourself that may be a little bit asleep at the moment and just remind you of your own beauty and power,” he said.
“Remind everyone that time is precious, and we can make change right now within ourselves, which is enough, or in the greater context, with the planet.
“[Foe] is a hopeful call to arms.”
Foe is in cinemas from November 2. Rated M
Listen to the full interview with Garth Davis in the player above or watch the full video below.