An interesting little movie.
I Origins slipped under my radar, which is too bad as this is the type of film I like. The movie presents a fairly unique narrative structure, and the film veers in genre and feel quite sharply at around the halfway point. I will speak broadly to avoid spoiling anything.
PhD candidate Ian (Michael Pitt) is obsessed with the human eye. His research examines the evolutionary development of the eye, and with his lab partner Karen (Brit Marling) work to find the zero point of the eye in nature. So, they are looking for the origin of the eye.
Ian’s scientific interests have a religious objective as well: the eye is usually presented as proof of irreducible complexity from those who deny evolution. So, if he can prove it evolved he can take on this counterargument more directly. Ian feels very real, he is funny, charming, pretentious, and elitist. His work consumes him, and in a lot of ways this film might be the most accurate showing of what being a graduate student is like. His research fully consumes him—at first.
Ian meets Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and the two begin an intense and passionate relationship. Sofi provides an almost complete counterbalance to Ian. She is spiritual, carefree, and thoughtful in a different way than he. The two of them make an odd couple at points (he certainly does not respect her religious views), but they are also believable.
As Ian’s research continues concepts of the origin of the eye make way to ideas about the origins of the self. Where the film heads is interesting enough to not spoil, but there are some issues with the transition. First, the philosophizing comes off a little to A or B for me—there is little effort to nuance the issue. Further, it becomes obvious which side the film believes is correct early on, and this is a bit of a disappointment.
While watching the film it is easy to get sucked in by the excellent acting (Pitt and Berges-Frisbey are excellent) and the supporting roles are likewise great (including Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead). The directing, pacing, dialogue, and set designs all work nicely. The film is easy to enjoy—at least until the next day. I try to present clear arguments for my reviews, but something about this film doesn’t sit well over time.
The movie wraps up in a rational, but unsatisfying way for the viewer. There are genuinely powerful moments here, but the rapid paced ending makes it all seem a little arbitrary. My exact thoughts were “huh, that’s it?” The film thrives on ambiguity, and the heavy-handed ending just doesn’t work.
This is not to say that the movie is bad. It certainly isn’t a failure, but it isn’t a resounding success, either. It is interesting, uneven, flawed, and oddly compelling all at once. Give it a shot. 6.5/10