Let us take a look at the real meaning behind Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal's recent film Foe.
The movie follows troubled couple Hen and Junior, who live on a farmstead on Earth in a future where the planet is slowly dying. The two are surprised when Junior is drafted to go work at a space station.
Instead of leaving Hen behind alone for two years, she is left with a human substitute—which viewers unknowingly meet in the very first scene of the movie.
The Meaning Behind Foe
A lot is going on in Foe—but what is it truly about?
First and foremost, the film’s overall meaning centers on one’s complacency in a relationship and how people can get stuck in a bad situation.
As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that the partnership between Hen and Junior is far from optimal. While they may have once been in love, that no longer seems to be the case.
The couple’s relationship is tested when Junior is drafted to work on a space station for two years.
While he is away, Hen gets to stick around with a Human Substitute of Junior, essentially an AI recreation of her husband.
It is through spending time with him that Hen truly realizes her situation on the farmstead, as she starts to fall back in love with the man she once married. Sadly, this replacement husband of hers is inhumanely put down when the real Junior returns.
This haunting sequence makes it clear to Hen that she is trapped in her relationship and has been for a while.
After the original Junior is home for a bit, the situation deteriorates to the point where Hen decides to leave once and for all. But she has one more gift for Junior: a replacement version of her own.
It is alluded that he quickly becomes aware that this new Hen who shows up is a substitute. But it doesn’t seem like he cares all too much.
For him, this is the perfect wife—obedient and always on the same page as him. He can live contently at the farm without a worry in the world.
Getting comfortable in a familiar dynamic is easy to do, and it can be hard to figure out when that situation might be souring—especially when one half of the equation seems perfectly content.
Sometimes, the hard decision is the right one to make. Though admittedly, there are not always Human Substitutes to hand out to those in need.
The Conversation About AI in Foe
Then, of course, there is heavy commentary on AI and its use in society seen in Foe—seeing as how the crux of the movie revolves around its literal replacement of a human being.
It is worth noting how it is hard to see any practical world where the situation explored in Foe would ever be considered a decent idea. This generally lessens any impact this story will have on the topic, but it remains interesting nonetheless.
The world is reaching a tipping point where it will have to grapple with what AI is and how close to humanity it might get.
The most important scene from Foe centered on the entire AI conversion is when the replacement Junior is stripped and put down. While audiences know it is nothing but an artificially made robot, it doesn’t feel any less human, something that is not lost on the characters themselves.
That robot also led to Hen reconnecting with her humanity, giving her the kick she needed to finally leave Junior and find self-fulfillment.
The pressing question has now become: Will there even be a reason to continue trying to distinguish between AI and humanity, or are they close enough to become the same?
Foe is currently streaming on Prime Video.