Release Date: 25 September 2014
Running Time: 106 minutes
Director: Mike Cahill
Starring: Michael Pitt, Steven Yeun, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling
Every now and then science-fiction spits out a low-budget gem; a film which makes up for its lack of production with an abundance of big ideas and intellect. Mike Cahill’s first feature Another Earth aspired to be one such offering, and in doing so hugely divided opinion upon its release. His new flick I Origins is cut from the same stone and shares that film’s ambition, however whether fans will come to its defence so readily is another matter. Centred around the eternal debate between spirituality and science, it attempts to find some common ground between these opposing sides with a scientific look at concepts like reincarnation and the soul.
Ian (Pitt) is a molecular biologist with a particular interest in the evolution of the eye. Fascinated by the fact that the iris is completely unique to each human, he becomes obsessed with documenting and photographing the eyes of the people he encounters. After meeting the mysterious (and conveniently gorgeous) model Sofi (Bergès-Frisbey) at a fancy dress party, an unexpected discovery takes his research down an all together different route.
I Origins has a number of problems, not least its frustratingly lackadaisical plot. Moving from one scenario to the next without any real sense of direction or purpose, its only by the third act that we get any sense of a bigger picture, and by then we’ve lost interest. Director Mike Cahill clearly has a lot of ideas to bring to the table, but in this instance the result is sophomoric to say the least; the introduction of Sofi as some kind of unattainable make fantasy is also confusing and frankly boring. However its biggest problem is that whole thing is mightily dull from start to finish; from the robotic characters, to the cold and bland cinematography and the script filled with technical jargon. It’s hardly surprising that this did the festival circuit; it feels pompous and studenty but without the flair it needs to really succeed: your ultimate run-of-the mill festival film.
That’s not to say there’s nothing about this to enjoy. Anyone brave enough to tackle big ideas immediately deserves some respect for at least trying, and there are moments where I Origins is genuinely intriguing. There is no doubt that Cahill has a unique voice in cinema, but at the moment he seems to be having trouble getting his ideas across to an audience effectively. If he can master the art of balancing ideas with an intriguing plot and characters, he’ll be on to a winner. He’s still one to watch, let’s just hope he gets it right next time.