REVIEW: I Origins

21 07 2014

I OriginsThe flaws of writer/director Mike Cahill’s “I Origins” have become more apparent as I have thought about the movie more in retrospect.  But remarkably, this awareness has not led me to think lesser of the product as a whole.  I still find the film’s aspirations noble, and Cahill manages to achieve his objectives even while stumbling (unlike his prior feature, “Another Earth,” which tripped out of the gate and never recovered).

The film is rather disjointed, feeling like two separate movies conjoined in the editing room – similar to Stanley Kubrick’s assemblage of “Full Metal Jacket.”  The first half of “I Origins” follows Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) as he attempts to disprove God with his studies of the human eye while romancing the free-spirited and spiritually inclined Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey).  In this section, Cahill’s dialogue is extremely overwrought and overwritten, yet it does manage to communicate the themes of the piece with great cogency.

After a mid-film climax that ultimately proves to be the apex of the entire story, “I Origins” forks off in an entirely different direction as the possibility of spiritual phenomena such as reincarnation.  This segment is quieter and more understated, perhaps leaving some things unsaid that ought to have been spoken.  In spite of those shortcomings, though, Cahill manages to ensnare us in a largely open-ended cosmic mystery.

The end does come rather abruptly, almost as if a projectionist had forgotten to show the last reel of the film (to use an illustration from a now bygone era).  Still, “I Origins” feels more or less complete even without a conventional resolution.  The film’s nearly two-hour runtime flew by – faster than most entertaining trifles being mass produced on the studio assembly line, I’d like to add.  In that period, Cahill raises a great deal of intriguing questions about tough subjects and discusses them with a fairly satisfying thoroughness.  B+3stars

REVIEW: Another Earth

12 08 2011

Don’t let the Sundance laurel fool you – “Another Earth” is just as disposable as your average mainstream sci-fi flick nowadays.  Mike Cahill’s directorial debut, also written by he and the film’s star Brit Marling, is a disaster from its opening minutes and limps along for another hour and a half barely breathing.  To say that it wears out its welcome is quite the understatement because by the time it ends, you’ll feel like you accidentally walked into the multiplex’s sensory deprivation chamber.

Another cliched saying applicable here would be “don’t judge a movie by its trailer” since it must be for another movie, not “Another Earth.”  If you were drawn in by the intriguing premise of parallel worlds and science-fiction interplanetary travel, you are in for otherworldly disappointment.  The best thing the movie had to offer is little more than a subplot, a plot gimmick occasionally brought up in conversation but never fulfilling its enormous potential.  When the film finally cashes in on this underworked aspect in its dying breath, it feels like something we were expecting in the first reel.

The movie’s main plot, on the other hand, abandons originality and settles for a contrived tale of a woman (Marling) coping with grief.  After killing John Burroughs’ (William Mapother) wife and child in a drunken driving accident, she feels the need for catharsis by bringing herself closer to the pain that still haunts her.  Sound familiar?

I made a list of 10 movies in the past 5 years that have done it better.  But even more than that, it’s a carbon copy of last year’s “Rabbit Hole” that lost all its heart, emotion, and power in the transfer.  Nicole Kidman and company make their grief truly moving, while Brit Marling’s painfully reserved, borderline masochistic behavior combined with William Mapother’s endless moping makes for a brutal watch.  The only thing they succeed in doing is making you wish you could be transported to another earth – one where you didn’t waste your time watching this movie.  D /