Directed by: Mike Cahill.
Written by: Mike Cahill.
Starring: Michael Pitt (Ian), Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (Sofi), Brit Marling (Karen), Steven Yeun (Kenny), Cara Seymour (Dr. Simmons), William Mapother (Darryl Mackenzie), Archie Panjabi (Priya Varma), Kashish (Salomina).
For those who believe in Intelligent Design, the human eye is often uses as the prime example of why there must be a creator at some point along the line. It is so complex, that many do not believe that it could simply evolve that way – and hence, the human eye is proof of the existence of God. It’s a rather silly theory really – but then again, Intelligent Design isn’t not really based in scientific fact, but rather in theory. Mike Cahill’s I Origins, a follow-up to his excellent Another Earth, starts as a movie about Ian (Michael Pitt) – a scientist, studying the human eye, who hopes to once and for all end the debate, and prove that the eye could in fact evolve. What’s interesting about I Origins is that it never really takes a side in the debate at all – and ends, like Another Earth did, on an ambiguous leaving the audience wanting to know what happens next. Depending on your own beliefs, you can read the ending however you want. But unlike Another Earth, I Origins just isn’t all that interesting other than in its initial premise. It has a melodramatic plot that verges on the ridiculous. The film is so subdued, where all the characters betray such little emotion, even when they are supposed to be going through emotional upheaval, the whole movie left me cold.
Ian (Michael Pitt) is a young doctoral student, doing his work on the human eye – specifically how it has evolved. He attends a Halloween party, and is immediately drawn to the eyes of a beautiful young woman in a mask – the two have anonymous sex, with him never seeing her face, but being mesmerized by her eyes – which (in a sequence both too complicated and too ridiculous to explain) use those eyes to track the woman down. This is Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who is just as beautiful as her eyes. The two fall in love – despite being complete opposites in how they view the world (this kind of reminded me of the relationship between Stephen and Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything). I don’t want to spoil what happens next – but the movie does take some strange turns, and ends up with Ian in India –trying to see if he can find an identical set of eyes to Sofi's – something he thought was impossible, as eyes are supposed to be like fingerprints – one of a kind.
I have always like Michael Pitt as an actor – he has a quiet, intelligent screen presence, that sometimes verges on comatose, but in the right role (like in Gus Van Sant's brilliant Last Days) he can be brilliant. Here, he isn’t much helped by the screenplay or the direction, and so he comes across more on the comatose side of things. The two main women in the film – Sofi and Brit Marling’s Karen (as Pitts assistant) are also not really helped – both are playing an idealized, unrealistic version of the perfect women – although to be fair, they are still as different as they can be while still being perfect.
I also didn’t really buy the numerous twists and turns in the movie – all of which seem to be overly calculated and foreshadowed (I watched the film with my wife, and we both could see every twist and turn coming a mile away). That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, if the twists lead to some interesting material – but it doesn’t here. The closing scenes, with Pitt and a young Indian girl, are almost unintentionally hilarious (and, kind of creepy when you think about it).
Cahill is still a director I want to see more from. Like Another Earth, I Origins has a lot of interesting ideas running through it. But unlike Another Earth, the execution does not match the ideas. It’s a film that sounds really interesting – but doesn’t deliver on its promise.