Maybe everything does come with an expiry date. Maybe our feelings too have one. A love once shared with someone doesn’t mean it won’t end. It is said that time erodes everything. Basically, it is the theme of Garth Davis’ 2023 film, Foe, which, on the surface, looks like a science fiction drama but, on the inside, follows a marriage that is slowly falling apart. Henrietta “Hen” and Junior have been married for seven long years. It takes quite a substantial amount of time to get to know a person inside and out, especially if a couple is living on an isolated patch of land. The year is 2065, and the world is already on the brink of destruction. Everything is dying, not only on the outside but on the inside too. Junior takes pride in his family’s house, which has been passed down for five generations now. Obviously, he doesn’t want to leave it. His parents and grandparents are buried out there in the fields, but stagnation is never a sign of growth. Especially when it comes to love and relationships. Foe is a journey where a couple tries to save their marriage, unaware of the fact that it’s been broken for years.
Why did Terrance pay a Visit to the couple?
Through the opening text, Foe informs us about a revolutionary technology called human substitutes, through which engineers or scientists have been able to make AI robots with the capacity for consciousness. They believe it is soon going to replace humanity. On one dark night, Terrance, a representative of the multinational company called “OuterMore” pays a visit to the lonely couple living in their isolated house. The company is working on a climate migration strategy. In simple words, the constant sandstorms and lack of clean air and water have made Earth inhabitable, and therefore everyone is looking for a way out. Off-Earth habitation seems like a nice proposition, but before sending the entire humanity into outer space, the company wants to test it with a few selected individuals. Unfortunately, Junior happens to be one unlucky individual who has been shortlisted for the program. Terrance doesn’t explain why Junior is selected, but we can imagine that anyone looking for a peaceful life out of the government’s radar is indeed a threat to them. Or maybe they believed that a farm boy might be able to endure the harsh conditions that one might go through in outer space. But, Junior isn’t interested in the program, yet Terrance makes it clear that he will have to, or else he will face the consequences.
It’s not the first time Terrance has paid a visit to the couple. The visit that we witness at the beginning of the film is a staged scene so that Terrance can sow a seed of doubt in the robot’s mind. Yes, the Junior living with Hen is a bot with human consciousness that has been developed by OuterMore. The real-human Junior had already been sent to the space stations, and it was the substitute’s first night at the couple’s house. Terrance’s headlights activated the robot’s consciousness so that he could take the real-Junior’s place in his absence. But why repeat the same things twice? So basically, Terrance and his company want to extract robot Junior (let’s call them AI-Junior) in the future so that the real-Junior can return to his old life after finishing the mission that was assigned to him. The information was fed to him on the very first night so that the robot would be prepared for the extraction. Additionally, they wanted to study its reaction to the newfound information.
Why Does Hen Fall in Love With AI-Junior?
Soon after Terrance’s visit, AI-Junior tried to make love with Henrietta, but she refused. She already knew the truth, and it was for the same reason that she knew who was on the doorstep when Terrance’s electronic car arrived at their house. Hen knew everything from the beginning, yet this new Junior felt more real to her than the one she was living with. The reason being, for AI-Junior, all those memories of his human counterpart were really fresh. The human substitute wanted to experience all those emotions that the original Junior had already felt and forgotten. But Hen cherished those memories and those gestures, and maybe that’s what bound the two souls together. One day, AI-Junior casually reminded Hen about the t-shirt she was wearing. It was the same t-shirt that she wore when the couple first met. The gesture really touched Hen. She expected those same words from her real husband, but he doesn’t look at her anymore. Maybe the feelings he had for her weren’t there now. Nevertheless, when AI-Junior brought those memories back to her, Hen couldn’t control her feelings anymore and slowly fell in love with the human substitute. AI-Junior and Hen wanted to run away to a faraway land and spend the rest of their lives together, but Terrance wouldn’t let them do so as the man in the relationship wasn’t real. It was an experiment and a property that belonged to OuterMore that they wanted to take away so that they could study the subject further and improve it.
Why did Terrance stay at the couple’s house?
Weeks before the real-Junior’s return, Terrance decided to stay at the couple’s house so that he could study the self-determining life form, aka AI-Junior, in order to analyze its flaws and shortcomings. He had been trying to analyze the AI-Junior’s attachment to Hen and pushing him further to test his emotional capacity and reaction to certain emotions like jealousy and separation. AI-Junior clearly didn’t want to get separated from Hen, which was one of the reasons why Hen fell in love with it. The AI robot was making much more effort than her real husband, and that’s what saves a relationship. It can also be surmised that maybe Terrance or the engineers at his company were aware of the real-Junior’s coldness and detachment from his wife, which was why they tweaked these emotional flaws in AI-Junior. Whatever the case, Terrance had been running several experiments on him in order to analyze his reactions to certain situations so that the technology could be improved further. However, in the end, AI-Junior completely lost his sanity and started shooting at people running on the farm, which might be a red alert for the company. It was time to get the real-Junior back home and replace it with his human substitute. Hen decided to cut her hair short so as to feel like a new person in front of an old person who was returning to her life after a long time. But he didn’t notice any of it, like always. But what he observed was the fact that his wife was madly in love with his substitute, and he called it adultery. Hen evidently didn’t want to share the roof with this person, who was worse than a robot. She tried to make things better after his return, but, as it is said, some people are beyond saving.
Why Did Hen Leave The House In The End?
During his stay at the house, Terrance had been discreetly interviewing Hen, probably because he knew that he would need that data to clone Hen when she would walk out of real-Junior’s life sometime in the future. At the beginning of the film, Hen revealed to us that she wasn’t happy in their marriage. Real-Junior wanted to stay at his ancestral house and get buried in the same yard as his forefathers, and he wanted the same for Hen. But she wasn’t a bird meant to be caged. Hen was slowly dying and losing parts of herself in this isolated wasteland. She wanted to fly high and see the world, but Junior had no such ambitions. If one looks at the larger picture, these two completely different people tragically got married to each other. Maybe it was a hasty decision, or the world changed so fast that they didn’t get time to analyze things around them. Whatever the case might be, Hen wasn’t happy with the marriage. The man wouldn’t even allow her to play the piano, so she had to put it in the storeroom like a forgotten memento of the past.
Hen had an inquisitive mind. She asked a lot of questions and was curious about new things in life. She was a lively soul who ended up with a person who didn’t know how to live life. He was too stubborn to even make any changes in his life. Junior didn’t like music, probably because it was the medium of free-thinkers and curious souls, and he wasn’t one. It was best for Hen to leave, and fortunately, she did.
What Happens to Junior and Hen in the End?
During Foe’s ending, the real-Junior returned to the house, but Hen didn’t feel a single thing for the man standing in front of her. He was as cold as he had always been. After everyone left, the first thing he said was not to ask how she’d been all through these months but to blame her for infidelity. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the real-Junior had been long dead. He had no feelings left, neither for the world nor for the people around him. In simple words, he represented the decaying world, and unfortunately, there was no escape from it. Hen tried to persuade him to leave the house behind and look out for new avenues or the scenery the world had to offer, but Junior didn’t want to. In the world of Foe, we came across two kinds of people. The stubborn ones wanted to stay on Earth no matter what happened, and the adventurers were ready to take a leap of faith and live on a space station once the world was destroyed. Junior belonged to the first kind, while Hen was an adventurer. In the last moments of the film, she heard the rain falling from the sky and danced in it like a lively soul. Apparently, it had rained on the day when the couple exchanged rings. The AI-Junior remembered these minute details, but the real one didn’t. It was the final blow to their already dead relationship, and therefore, Hen didn’t waste any other moment to leave everything behind to start a new life. She broke her piano in anger; perhaps it was the only connection she had with the rotten house. Hen left a blank letter behind, as she didn’t want to explain the reasons for her departure. She had said the same during her interview with Terrance. Hen knew real-Junior would never be able to understand any of it as they are two very different people.
In the end, Junior was devastated by Hen’s departure, and he should have been. But Terrance intervened. He paid the couple a last visit, but Junior wasn’t there at the house. As he witnessed the broken piano, he understood the strings between the couple had been broken forever and therefore brought a human substitute of Hen to fill the void in Junior’s life. Now, why Terrance brought robot-Hen (or AI-Hen) is open to discussion. But being the kind of person he is, we strongly believe that it is only for experimental purposes. He wanted to improve the technology further and wanted to see if the real-Junior would fall in love with AI-Hen like the real Hen had fallen in love with the robot. It is most likely that the company made special tweaks to the substitute so that the real-Junior would like it more than his curious wife. Or maybe he would soon find out the reality. A look on his face in the end suggests that he already knows the truth. Real-Hen, on the other hand, is seen sitting on an airplane, giving wings to her dreams like she always wanted to.
What Did The Bug Represent?
There are numerous ways to perceive the presence of rodents in the couple’s house. For starters, their relationship was infected, and the house was rotten. It had become hollow from within, and no one could have saved it, which was why Hen wanted to move out but Junior didn’t. Another symbolism that we came across was the reaction of human substitutes to these bugs. If you remember, when AI-Junior saw the bug in the closet, he was quite fascinated by it. He said he had seen something like that for the first time. It implied the fact that OuterMore’s human substitutes were not perfect and were still unaware of many wonders of the Earth. Additionally, Hen wanted to get the house disinfected—in short, kill those bugs—but the AI-Junior wasn’t programmed to kill. However, at the end of the film, AI-Junior, out of paranoia, loaded his gun and fired some shots at the people of the company as they had been coming to pick him up. So, it could be surmised that these robots had a self-defense mechanism and could become killing machines in the future, which Terrance and his company might want to work on.
At the end of the film, we saw AI-Hen looking at the bug in the same manner AI-Junior looked upon it. But this time, real-Junior didn’t waste a moment to smash the bug and kill it, acting on his manly instincts. His actions could imply the fact that it is humans like him who are slowly destroying the world and making it a far worse place for generations to come. They want to get rid of anything and everything they don’t like, even if the creature is as harmless as a bug. The empathy is in the choices they make, but people like Junior have none. They didn’t mind cutting down the entire forest or nuking an entire country so that they could sleep peacefully.