I Origins Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey. Directed by Mike Cahill. Rated R. Opens Friday.
Writer-director Mike Cahill’s first film, 2011’s Another Earth, was a mopey indie drama with sci-fi window dressing, a disappointing mishandling of its intriguing premise. With I Origins, Cahill once again uses sci-fi as an excuse for drippy emotional storytelling, only this time he doesn’t even have a promising idea at the outset.
Indeed, the movie doesn’t really get to sci-fi until its second half, after the entire cycle of the whirlwind romance between molecular biologist Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) and his flighty pixie of a girlfriend, Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey). Ian’s research charts the evolution of the human eye, and he eventually makes a discovery that seems to open up all sorts of possibilities about souls and reincarnation. Cahill rushes through those possibilities, though, and mainly offers up vague platitudes about the importance of faith as a counterpoint to science (plus one of the most ridiculous death scenes in recent cinema).
The movie’s musings are disingenuous at best and infuriating at worst, delivered with a hollow solemnity that the flowery story never warrants. Cahill is already working up a sequel, but he might be better served leaving sci-fi behind until he can engage with the genre in a more genuine, meaningful way.