Review: The Circle

Distributor: STX Entertainment & Europa Corp
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: James Ponsoldt & Dave Eggers
Stars: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rating: PG-13
What if humanity had near omniscience? That’s the question this film asks. I postponed my research until after seeing the film, so I could go into the film with a blank slate. All I knew is what I’d seen from the trailers. After seeing the film, I researched that the author of the 2013 novel this film is based on, Dave Eggers, actually helped screen write this movie, so it’s very close to the original novel. I believe this film brings up many philosophical implications of humanity getting a hold of omniscience.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: The only instance of violence is when a character dies by accidentally driving his truck off a bridge, but there is no blood or even showing of a body.
Language/Crude Humor: There is only one swear word in the entire movie and it’s when Tom Hanks says, “We’re so f***ed up,” near the end of the film.
Spiritual Content: N/A
Sexual Content: For a few seconds, Mae switches to one of the cameras in her parents’ bedroom and  accidentally witnesses them having sex. There is full nudity, though genitals and breasts are obscured.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Mae along with many other characters drink at a party. Mae’s father has several beers.
Other Negative Content: Mae steals a kayak at one point.
Positive Content: Man shouldn’t be allowed to have omniscience. That’s my biggest take away from this movie. There’s a reason why God alone should be allowed to have it, and it’s because of man’s sinful nature. Man will find ways to take advantage of being able to see anything at any time they want.  If this film didn’t make that obvious, I don’t know what will.


Mae Holland is a young temp who lives with her parents. When her friend from college lands her a job at the Circle, Mae joins a company who believes that privacy is stealing from other people. As the company grows more invasive in not just her life, but others she begins to question if the company’s ideals are as innocent and pure as they seem.
First off, this is not a guns-blazing action film. This is a psychological thriller. This film relies on underlying tension, character dynamics, and what the events mean to the characters’ future lives. This was a film made to have you really think about what this would be like if it actually happened. I found myself thinking about the film for hours last night after seeing it. I’m a very private person, so honestly the idea of everyone knowing what I’m doing all the time terrifies me.
However, I found myself empathizing with the main character Mae Holland. I know what it feels to have unfulfilled potential–and I believe part of the reason why she gets so wrapped up in the company is because she is embracing the attention, the feeling of being successful, and that potential seemingly being fulfilled. On the other hand, I could also relate to her grounded hesitations at first. When she speaks to a technician and the woman says casually, “Oh we implant trackers inside the bones of children so we can prevent kidnappings and rape.” Mae reacts with a surprised laugh. I felt the same way. The intentions are good, but does that justify the invasive nature of this procedure?
All of the actors did a great job in their acting. I kept thinking throughout the movie that they acted very real and genuine. Many of their reactions, dialogue, and things they did were very human. Emma Watson was great in her roll of Mae and many of her moments in the film had me forget that she was an actor and believe she truly was the character. Tom Hanks was great as the villain of the film, which was a role I was unused to him playing, but seeing him as a charismatic and manipulative character was a quite an interesting performance to view. The other role I’d like to point out in particular was the performance of the late Bill Paxton, who portrayed Mae’s father who had multiple sclerosis. His portrayal of the illness was very accurate and for moments I actually wondered if he had the disease. I also like how the director showed how Mae’s father’s illness impacted not just him but his entire family.
As I said at the beginning of this review, this film had me thinking for hours about the theme. There was so much take away. Some may see this as a movie that demonizes the internet. I disagree as the movie shows the many benefits of the internet as in how it connects people, but it also shows the downsides as in how much connection is too much? An element shown in the trailer is Mae “going transparent.” In the film, she starts wearing a camera constantly. This gains her many accolades, but when others think of doing this, they’re not so quick to give up their privacy, so they seem to say, “That’s great! As long as it’s not me.” This touches on the theme of hypocrisy.
I’d also like to point out the movie’s theme of valuing privacy. Sometimes we need privacy and I feel like in this extroverted Western culture we live in, privacy is dropping. We want to photograph and status update everything, but sometimes it’s okay to have moments that are only preserved in our minds, that are only between us or even just for ourselves. As an introvert, I need privacy. It’s how I recharge. The thought of always having someone watching me puts undue pressure on me, and it would drive me crazy. Introverts, it’s okay not to want to go to every party, every activity among your piers. Moments of serenity, solitude, and peace are not bad.
What I didn’t like about the film so much was the ending, and I’ll try to talk about this as best I can without spoiling it. I didn’t feel very satisfied. It felt a bit rushed and I felt like many loose ends weren’t tied up, especially between Mae, her parents, Ty, and Annie. I didn’t know if they were okay at the end of the film. I understand by how this was filmed so that it focused essentially on Mae and kept to her point of view, but I would have liked to have more closure on the side characters’ ends.
I enjoy films that make me think. I like pondering about the effects of different things on society. I believe the concept of this film is very interesting and worth a watch. If you want a good film that makes you think and provokes good discussion, definitely check out the Circle.



The Bottom Line


Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell is an artist and aspiring speculative fiction writer. She received Teen Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference , a conference she attended since 2010, and the Believers Trust Award in 2015. When she's not writing her books or articles, she enjoys drawing her characters, playing the piano and practicing Kung Fu.

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