Movie review: Exploring the unanswerable in moving 'I Origins'
In the thought-provoking new drama "I Origins," director-screenwriter Mike Cahill continues the exploration he began in his debut, the 2011 Sundance Film Festival breakthrough "Another Earth," of that razor's edge between the two halves of science fiction the science and the fiction.
Cahill's new movie walks on the line between the scientific and the spiritual, with a couple who represent both sides of that line. It's in their relationship and its aftermath that Cahill builds a considerable amount of emotion and tension.
Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is a molecular biologist with a fascination for the human eye, which is why his research centers on finding proof of the evolution of the eye research that would, as a side note, put to rest the "intelligent design" crowd's argument that the eye is too beautiful to have been created through Darwinian trial-and-error.
Ian meets Sofi (Astrid BergÃ©s-Frisbey), a French model and artist with a firm belief in the supernatural. She defends her belief fervently, noting that the blind worms on which Ian experiments would look at light and color as supernatural phenomena so who's to say whether what we think of as fantasy is just outside our perception?
Ian and Sofi fall in love, but their whirlwind courtship ends tragically. Years later, as Ian has settled into marriage and parenthood with his lab partner, Karen (Brit Marling, Cahill's "Another Earth" co-writer and onscreen muse), the scientists are confronted with information, regarding the supposedly unique patterns of the human iris, that may upend everything they know about life on Earth.
Cahill's visual style leans toward the dreamy, and he has honed his technique since "Another Earth." The montages depicting Ian and Sofi's love affair are sweet and magical, a contrast to Ian and Karen's lab work, which is depicted as clean and clinical, yet brimming with the energy of discovery. A late detour to India adds another dimension, as Ian's science meets the rough-and-tumble of real life.
"I Origins" asks a lot of big questions, more than Cahill's script can answer, but that's part of its intrigue. The best science fiction employs scientific inquiry to explore the unanswerable, and this movie does that with visual flair and emotional resonance.
The eyes have it in this stylish and thought-provoking tale of science and spirituality.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, Aug. 1.
Rating • R for some sexuality/nudity and language.
Running time • 107 minutes.