In director Drake Doremus’ fifth feature Equals, written by Moon screenwriter Nathan Parker, humanity lives in an “emotionless utopia” in which passionate feelings are weeded out at the genetic level in order to foster a stable, war-free society. Into this comes Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and Nia (Kristen Stewart), two people who fall in love after they regain their feelings thanks to a mysterious disease, resulting in conflict between them and society. The film, which screened at Tribeca 2016 following equalsdebuts in Venice and Toronto, became available VOD May 26 exclusively on DirectTV and opens in theaters July 15. Deadline sat down with Doremus during Tribeca to talk about the contemplative science fiction romance that also stars Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver.

“Equals is a futuristic love story that takes place in a world where emotions don’t exist and love is potentially eradicated for the preservation of the human race,” said Doremus at the Deadline Photos Studio at Tribeca. “I met [Nicholas Hoult] through mutual friends of mine…and modeled the character Silas after him. I then met Kristen [Stewart] and thought she was really unique. [I felt] there was something in her that hadn’t been tapped into yet. And I think the performance in the movie is a very special one. It’s raw and beautiful.”

equals kristen stewartDoremus said that the Equals had a terrific reception in Venice where it had its World Premiere, but realizes his movies are not for everyone — and that’s OK. “Most of my movies are polarizing. Some people really love my movies and others really hate my movies. It’s interesting to premiere [this] in Europe. The audience was incredible. It think they really felt the movie…” Equals was filmed in various locations in Japan as well as Singapore, which gave the filmmakers and cast plenty of time to forge ahead away from the spotlight.

“We searched all over the world to find these beautiful locations…in Japan [and] Singapore. I think we bonded more because we were in such a foreign land. It was difficult to be so far away because none of the [familiar] comforts were there, so we had to rely on each other, to get each other through the experience. It’s a magical place. Japan is one of my favorite places in the world.”