For many, the concept of Amazon Prime’s Soulmates – using tech to find your perfect person – will sound all too familiar. However, unlike the questionable science of online dating, Soulmates exists in a world where compatibility is based on strict biology (unlike, say, Married at First Sight Australia). Here, there's no need to input your favourite film or dream dinner guest to find a perfect match; romantic hopefuls can rely instead on the discovery of the ‘soul gene’ which allows you to take a genetic test that will reveal your one true love.
You'd be forgiven for thinking this sounds an awful lot like a storyline you’d find on Black Mirror (which makes sense given that the writer worked on the Netflix smash hit). In contrast to the far-off futures of Charlie Brooker's dystopian universe, however, Soulmates takes place only 15 years forward in time. It’s this close proximity to our everyday life that makes the show all the more interesting, introducing culture-shifting technology into a world which doesn’t feel all that removed from our own day to day.
Set in suburbia, we are introduced to a collection of couples, children and identical expensive houses. Underneath the smiles, there is a growing societal divide between those who have taken ‘the test’ and those who haven’t. The test has been created by a company called Soul Connex; we see a Match.com-style TV advertisement professing the wondrous powers of technology. People give firsthand accounts of how their lives became infinitely better following the test, each clip interspersed with images of loved up couples gazing off into the sunset.
By comparison, our main characters' lives look pretty different, frantically packing the kids' lunches and rushing to get ready for work. We learn that Nikki (Sarah Snook) and Franklin (Kingsley Ben-Adir) have been married for 15 years, meeting in college and having children soon after. On the surface, things seem pretty good between the pair, with friends and family making comments to Nikki about how 'lucky’ she is to have found a good guy BSC (before Soul Connex).
Things get complicated when Nikki’s neighbour informs her she is going to take the test, despite having a husband and young family. As Nikki begins to attend a string of ‘soulmate’ weddings (including her brother’s), she starts to wonder if she’s truly happy in her own life. As she drives around the city contemplating her relationship, she starts to notice all the joyous couples around her, whose apparent bliss feels a far cry from her bedtime teeth-brushing routine with Franklin. This seed of doubt eventually begins to rear its head in uncharacteristic ways, putting their relationship and faith in old fashioned love in serious jeopardy.
Sci-fi shows can feel fake and fantastical but Soulmates manages to feel real and raw. Grounded by truly moving performances from Snook and Ben-Adir, the show discusses the universal fear of the grass being greener somewhere else (or in this case, with someone else). While Nikki knows she is happy, she begins to ask herself if she could be happier – a question frequently asked by Love Island contestants and longtime lovers alike. It's these feelings of insecurity and mistrust in your own judgement which make the story feel so believable as it explores whether the characters have problems because they didn’t take the test or if the invention of the test created their problems.
We had hoped to stick with Nikki and Franklin for the long run but the six-part series subverts convention by featuring a new cast and story each episode. Discussing the ways in which the test impacts different relationships, Soulmates allows the audience to explore the central theme through a variety of lenses. While there is definitely something to be said for the powerful performances in the first episode, learning more about the inner workings of the technology and its societal impact will likely be just as interesting.
The series sheds new light on the age-old questions that exist in any long-term relationship but it also prompts new discussions about what it would be like to no longer have to find love organically. If you like your sci-fi to provoke introspective conversations about human relationships rather than grandiose theories about the future of mankind, then Soulmates is the series for you. Just be prepared to have the "would you take the test?" conversation with your S.O. as soon as it finishes.
Soulmates is available to stream on Amazon Prime from 8th February.