“Sometimes they don’t really desire you. They desire the way you make them feel.”


Following Equals and Newness, director Drake Doremus continues his exploration of human relationships with Zoe, which largely falls into the same pitfalls of interesting concepts executed blandly and with musings more derivative than profound. His focus here is society’s use of technology as a solution for crumbling relationships and intimacy, explored through the story of a relationship between an engineer and a “synthetic” human. The material is more thought-provoking than Doremus’ past work, though much of the heavy lifting is left to the viewer — neither the story nor the engagement with its ideas is as deftly handled as Her (which was evidently an influence). Zoe suggests that human connection with a synthetic may break when confronted with their artificiality, but this makes little sense when applied to the creator of a synthetic, for whom every detail ought to be a reminder. This is no slight on the actors, who deliver understated and tender performances, including an underutilised Christina Aguilera as an older model of synthetic. The film’s most interesting aspect is recreational use of a new pharmaceutical drug that chemically simulates the experience of falling in love, though again the script fails to engage with the fundamental question of which experience is more real: a genuine internal reaction to an external artificiality, or an artificially synthesised internal reaction to another human. Instead, the audience is left to drift through this slow-moving sci-fi with increasing disengagement.