Film: I Origins
Directed by: Mike Cahill
Starring: Michael Pitt, Steven Yeun, Brit Marling

What if you experienced something in your life that would result in shattering your preconceptions about it? That’s what Mike Cahill, director of 2011’s mystifying Another Earth, is asking with his new film I Origins. Luckily, that overlying theme is just a backdrop to an intimate story about obsession as a scientist is challenged to believe that there might be a higher power than scientific logic. I Origins paints an achingly beautiful portrait about love, loss, redemption, and the struggle to believe in the impossible.

I Origins follows Dr. Ian Gray (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt), molecular biologist studying the eye, as a brief encounter with a girl (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and her unique iris transfixes him. Ian and his lab partner, Karen (The East’s Brit Marling), happen upon a scientific breakthrough that will shake the foundations of science and faith. Their findings are interrupted when Ian falls in love with that exotic girl and finds her exact iris existing in a child in India. To Ian, this can’t be possible because no set of eyes is an exact match to another. What follows is Ian’s obsessive journey to discover the truth.

With Another Earth, Mike Cahill proved that he has a knack for developing intimate stories with big Sci-Fi concepts. In I Origins, he wanted to tow the line between science and faith while studying the question of “what happens after we die?” If you are a man/woman of faith in religion or science, this movie may not be for you. Already, bible-thumpers and scientific-aficionados have been trashing I Origins. Cahill isn’t a filmmaker that is destined to ruffle feathers, he makes films that ask honest questions and give possible explanations. If anything, Cahill is a perfect example of a director that will choose story over aesthetic when providing a Sci-Fi-esque concept. His new film may be a testament to how beautiful 4K resolution can be but it’s his dedication to shooting on location, unwavering allegorical ideals, and experimenting with film making technology that make him unlike any film maker today.

Michael Pitt, famous for his role on Boardwalk Empire, brings a nuanced light to the part of a scientist whose beliefs are being challenged. Instead of getting angry or mad at something that he can’t explain, Ian Grey gets a sort of physical sickness. He goes through the throes of loss and grief with this information he is trying to uncover. Instead of going from disgruntled to open-minded, Ian’s journey plays like an idea, starting from a kernel of knowledge, continuing the struggle to grow, and then achieving something that transcends anything anyone could have thought.

Brit Marling and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey play the two lovers (Karen and Sofi) to Ian in I Origins. Marling’s Karen is the more rational partner to Ian, she’s a person who scientific and logical ideals are always in place. Sofi is the kind of person that is wild, young, free, and still unwavering in her spiritual beliefs. Ian may seem drawn to them for different reasons but in reality, they both represent strong women that support Ian whilst sticking to their respective ideals.

If I were to have any gripe with I Origins is its lack of direction about 1/2 way through the film. We get to a point in Ian’s life where he is floating in a sea of grief and despair. This part of his life goes on for far too long and then catapults to years in the future. Of course, this is about as minor as a gripe can get but part of me wanted the story to move a bit faster.

Where I Origins succeeds as a cerebral drama is the way that it displays the messages of life, death, reincarnation, loss, and science. The film benefits from being emotionally raw to the point where you are tearing up at the just the idea of someone trying to grapple with the possibility that there may be something much more powerful than himself. Cahill has a knack for showing that empty and lacking feeling that people have when their whole life is turned upside down. Here’s to hoping that someone keeps funding Cahill’s projects because this guy is the real deal and he will only continue to flourish into a filmmaker that can do a lot with a little. I Origins is a breathtaking testament to the human condition on the big screen, a film that challenges as much as entertains and provokes intelligent thought.


Review written by Sam Cohen – (Follow him on Twitter)

Sam Cohen
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