Posted on Sunday, January 19th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
Mike Cahill‘s I Origins might be the best science vs faith movie I’ve seen since Robert Zemeckis’s Contact. That is a very huge compliment coming from me, as Contact is one of my favorite films.
I must admit, when Brit Marling broke out at Sundance in 2011 with not one but two films, I was more a fan of Sound of My Voice than her low-key sci-fi rumination Another Earth. Sound connected with my desire for more mystery boxes in a post-Lost world. Plus, as you know, I love time travel movies. The idea at the core of Another Earth, of discovering a planet identical to Earth, interested me a lot more than the film (which was a Bound-style romance). Both films had interesting science fiction ideas crammed into low budget human stories.
I Origins, a haunting film that explores the idea of a supreme maker, the afterlife and the concept of souls through the eye of a science-grounded sceptic, delivers more successfully on that mind-bending premise..
The story follows a molecular biologist Ian Grey (played by Michael Pitt) and his lab partner (Brit Marling) who aim to prove the evolution of the eye through different species, in effect squashing the belief that the complexity of the human eye is evidence of intelligent design that cannot be explained by science. Their discovery could potentially send shockwaves through the religious world. What might it mean if everything we know of God and the afterlife could be scientifically proven or disproved?
Cahill grounds some huge ideas and “what ifs” in a story told using an intimate relationship triangle. During the research process, Grey meets and falls in love with Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), a beautiful free spirit who very much believes in the spirituality that the skeptical doctor despises. Their relationship will challenge the faith/science debate in ways you would never possibly expect.
While I ended up loving this movie, it actually took a little while for me to get into this film. The interesting twists come later on after a bunch of much-needed set-up. The second half of the movie is everything I want this kind of film to be, and more. One of the problems with this movie is that it is very hard to sell the concept without revealing the mid-film plot turn; that is not something I want to reveal to you. The film is an amazing journey and I’d hate to have that journey spoiled. However, I’m afraid that a trailer for an eventual theatrical release might have to reveal the later plot turns to entice an audience. But for now, trust me, it is good.
That said, I like the double play of the title, but I do think they need something better when releasing to the masses. I said the same thing of the other Brit Marling film Sound of My Voice, and I still think that is one of the reasons the film didn’t do that well theatrically.
I Origins is an intellectually stimulating film, but also a very accessible one. This is the kind of movie that will leave you in profound conversation well after leaving the theater. It is brilliant beyond your expectations.
(It should be noted that the movie ends with an after credits sequence which offers a harder sci-fi bite that will have you thinking about the concept well after you’ve left the theater. So be sure not to duck out as the credits hit or you’ll miss it.)
/Film rating: 8 out of 10