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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 25 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 30
Fascinating Origins an eye-opening drama
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Fascinating Origins an eye-opening drama

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

I ORIGINS
Now playing


Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is a talented young molecular biologist currently studying the evolution of the human eye. He is aided by his new assistant Karen (Brit Marling), a woman who possesses a keen intellect and an extremely creative mind. Better, she also shares her lab partner's infatuation with the eye, believing if they can unlock its secrets, maybe they can also shed light on age-old questions of evolution, humanity and faith that have been vexing science and religion alike for generations.

Against his own common sense, Ian has fallen madly in love with the beautiful Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), a free-spirited model whose belief in a hereafter is as strong and as wild as the heterochromia that gives her eyes their exotic, uninhibited multicolored allure. They have a connection that's as deep as it is ephemeral, as powerful as it is nondescript, their mutual desires coming close to overwhelming common sense, leading them to make decisions and go in directions they otherwise would not have traveled in.

The trailer for I Origins gives away far too much as far as I'm concerned, yet even with that being so, I'm going to leave my description of what transpires during the film to those two paragraphs. This second narrative effort from Another Earth writer/director Mike Cahill, the movie is a beautiful treatise on self, human understanding, religion, science and most of all faith. It moves, shifts and evolves in naturalistic fastidiousness, everything building to a magnificent conclusion that speaks volumes, but does so in a way that allows the viewer to put the pieces together in virtually any way that they would like. Make no mistake, this film is a marvel.

Differentiating between the science fact and the science fiction is close to impossible, Cahill handling all facets of his complex yet soulfully intimate scenario with confident ease. There is a point where the metaphorical complexities inherent in all that is taking place threaten to overwhelm the proceedings - a time after Ian has arrived in India, of all places, on a mission, impossible to put into proper context or explain with any ease. Yet the filmmaker makes these new events palpitate with poignant urgency, allowing for a meeting between adult and child that's a one-on-a-kind, generational mind-blower, yet one that keeps the inherent melodramatics to a minimum.

The key is Pitt. His performance is as multifaceted as they come, navigating difficult emotional terrain yet doing so with a realistic naturalism that's impressive. His Dr. Ian Gray is a man of science and reason whose heart has been broken clean in two, discovering things about the world he never knew possible, while trying to reconcile his beliefs with the almost otherworldly aura these new experiences begin to generate. Pitt, an underrated talent who to my mind has never gotten his full due, is always doing something interesting, making the character come alive with vital, innately genuine grace every step of the way.

Cahill doesn't make easy movies, that fact made more than clear with his almost too nondescript sci-fi think-piece Another Earth. He wants his audiences to work, to decide for themselves what is going on and why, leaving it up to them to discover the truth behind the mystery and the science making the magic rumble to vivacious life. Suffice it to say, this sort of handling and style works wonders as it pertains to things here, allowing the director's ruminations about faith and religious dogmatism to be more effective and meaningful than 2014's faith-based trifecta of Son of God, God's Not Dead and Heaven is for Real combined managed to spawn.

Put simply from a filmmaking perspective his growth from one movie to the next is astonishing, signature moments coming alive with a bracing legitimacy that I never saw coming. One spectacular scene involving a broken down elevator is amazing, Cahill allowing cinematographer Markus Förderer's (Hell) camera to linger on Pitt's impressively nuanced performance before slowly unleashing a devastating reveal. It stopped my breath, instantly, with almost brutal effectiveness, the tears flowing down my cheek as unsettlingly genuine as they were sincerely generated.

As I've already stated, I'm being purposely nondescript as far as the main narrative dynamics are concerned. But having an outline of the plot, knowing its ins and its outs, none of that in the end is all that important. What is significant is the connection Cahill managed to make between me and his story - about how he managed to get me so emotionally entwined with this ocular mystery - all leading to revelations that blew me away about who we are and why we're here. I Origins is an unforgettable journey into the heart, the eye truly becoming a window into a soul, more personal and affecting than any I could have anticipated beforehand - my own.

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Seattle Gay & Lesbian Book Club reads Cavafy in August
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An interview with Boyhood director Richard Linklater
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OUTBOUND: Vancouver Pride next weekend
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Ten album releases to get excited about
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A new perspective on recording classical music
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A conversation with Mike Cahill, director of I Origins
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Northwest News
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LETTERS
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Nick Carter and Jordan Knight book Showbox concert
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Linklater's Boyhood takes joy in life's minutia
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Fascinating Origins an eye-opening drama
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Colorful Electric Sky singing to the converted
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