I Origins

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If eyes are the windows to the soul, I Origins is a window into the mind of filmmaker Mike Cahill.

This moody sci-fi/existential drama is the third feature as director from Cahill, who started getting noticed with 2011’s equally moody Another Earth. In that film Brit Marling pondered the possibilities of a duplicate earth. This time, Cahill’s back (with Marling in toe) forensically and spiritually examining the role of eyes and souls.

I Origins begins with Ian (Michael Pitt) a geeky/hunky science grad who has a thing for photographing eyes. He runs into the mysterious, masked Sofi (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and after taking a pic of her peeps the two move to the bathroom. However Sofi abandons Ian mid-act and he spends the next few weeks trying to track her down via billboards and series of unexpected events.

At the same time Ian is assigned a new assistant, the geeky/cute Karen (Brit Marling) and the two embark on an ambitious quest to see if they can find an animal without eyes that will prove God doesn’t exist. Got it?

In the meantime Ian and Sofi reconnect and fall madly in love, while having conversations about faith, the afterlife and whether statues have eyes. Unable to resolve this issue the pair decide to get hitched but have to wait for the paperwork.

So they drop by the lab where Karen reveals she’s discovered an eyeless worm she’ll be able to grant vision to, thus proving God doesn’t exist. This upsets Sofi and she and Ian have a fight.

A traumatic incident causes Ian to rethink his faith and question the limitations of his research. Here Cahill employs shades of Terrence Malick with some lovely cinematography and good looking people talking about serious matters, but here the similarities end.

While the premise of I Origins is an intriguing one, the execution is handled  a little clumsily. Sofi, as the voice of creative reason, begins to grate over time, while Karen and Ian’s coldness keeps them aloof from the audience. There are big questions at stake here, but Cahill’s third feature doesn’t have the depth the meaningfully answer them.

But perhaps that’s the point. Still worth a peep.

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