I Origins

I Origins

I Origins is
provocative and original, so while it may be less than perfect, it’s not a
movie I would or could dismiss. Director Mike Cahill’s screenplay opens on an
intriguing note, heads in unexpected directions, and meanders a bit before bringing
its story full circle. Whatever its flaws, there aren’t many serious movies
that deal with science and spirituality in an entertaining way, as this one
does.

Michael Pitt is well cast as a research scientist who is
preoccupied with the individuality of people’s eyes. He photographs almost
everyone he meets and keeps a running file of these close-up pictures. But when
he shoots a sexy woman at a Halloween costume party and she runs off before he
can learn her identity, he becomes obsessed with tracking her down. This opens
the next chapter of the story, which I would rather not reveal. Brit Marling
(who co-wrote Cahill’s last film, Another
Earth
) plays Pitt’s super-smart lab assistant, who shares his fervor and
takes their research to a higher level—one where, it might be said, the two of
them are playing God.

As scientists, Pitt and Marling are concerned with proofs
and hard evidence, but through a series of events they are forced to confront
the possibility that, as lyricist Alan Jay Lerner once wrote, “There’s more to
us than surgeons can remove.”

I Origins unfolds
at a deliberate pace and, to its credit, doesn’t telegraph its ideas. Despite
his quiet demeanor, Pitt is an empathetic figure, and we share his feelings of
triumph, frustration and anguish—albeit at arm’s length. But when an anomaly
presents itself and he begins to follow its circuitous trail, the movie tries
our patience. I admire Cahill’s avoidance of the obvious, but I also felt
myself losing interest for a spell. The story’s punch line helps make up for
that, but here, too, the filmmaker wants to dodge a conventional “big finish.” To
that point I would say: sometimes, giving an audience what it wants, or needs,
is not such a bad idea.

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