Review: I Origins (Cahill, 2014) – Sundance 2014

Courtesy of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival website

Courtesy of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival website

Most will know director Mike Cahill from his previous Sundance feature Another Earth, which enjoyed a relatively robust festival afterlife (I watched it on the plane, having missed it at the 2011 festival where it premiered). Brit Marling rejoined Cahill in his second dramatic feature about molecular biologist Ian Grey (Michael Pitt) attempting to dismantle the theory of intelligent design by evolving a human eye from scratch. In the process, he makes discoveries about the spiritual world that shake the bedrock of his scientific mindset.

Though not particularly a fan of Another Earth, my husband has a predilection toward science fiction and attractive women (well, what straight man doesn’t?), and certain phrases from the movie synopsis drew him in, e.g. “eye evolution” and “masked model” and “stunning discovery with profound existential implications.” I tagged along for the hell of it.

It wasn’t a bad movie. I enjoyed it, once I let go of the idea that it would be anything more than your typical Hollywood entertainment. The plot twists were fairly predictable (someone even pointed this out in the Q&A, disguised as praise: “I felt as if I knew exactly what was going to happen next, and that’s a good thing because that’s how connected I was with the film!”–there is something satisfying about the unfolding of a familiar story). The scientific babble felt barely credible. The romance between the hero scientist and his masked model seemed like nothing more than the playing out of a male fantasy. Nevertheless, once I let go of any high expectations, it was fun to revel in the possibilities, the hypotheticals that emerged from the film. If anything, I wanted more of that, more of a personal connection between Dr. Ian Grey and his…shall we say subject (in order not to spoil the movie)?…at the end. Instead, it stayed in the zoomed out realm of pseudoscience/pseudospirituality and ultimately left me a little cold and disappointed.

For those who want a more complete review, I’ve somehow become a huge fan of Variety‘s film critics and almost completely agree with Peter Debruge’s assessment of the film.

Acquired by Fox Searchlight.

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