Yesterday I managed to catch a matinee showing of the newest indie sci-fi theater release, I Origins, starring Michael Pitt (whom I must admit I have a bit of a thing for ever since he played Jimmy on Boardwalk Empire), Brit Marling (a real up-and-comer who I adored in the very similar flick Sound of My Voice and was also great in The East), and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey (the mermaid Syrena from Pirates of the Caribbean 4), with just a dash of Steven Yeun (who you probably know as Glenn from The Walking Dead), and is written and directed by Mike Cahill (who also directed Another Earth, starring co-writer Brit Marling).
The film begins jarringly, though not in the way you might expect–this is no sci-fi dystopia, but instead the real world that we live in. Our lead, Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) meets a fascinating girl at a party (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), but she suddenly leaves. The next day he tries to get on with his life, and his roommate and lab partner (Steve Yeun) introduces him to their new research assistant, Karen (Brit Marling). However, Ian is still preoccupied by that strange girl, and through a series of happenstances that seem far too good to be true he actually manages to find her again, whereupon the two engage in a passionate, if somewhat clichéd, love affair.
This synopsis encompasses about the first half of the film, and it’s all I’m going to give you, because the narrative goes in a very different direction than one would expect. However, don’t go in expecting that direction to be trippy, hard-line sci-fi like I did, or you may be disappointed: while the film toes the line of sci-fi, it never truly crosses it, leaving us with plenty of questions. Instead, it favors exploring the gap between the know and the unknown, between science and faith. Ultimately, I really enjoyed this approach, but it was not what I expected going in.
The movie is definitely influenced by and pays homage to the classic 1997 Spanish-language sci-fi flick Abre los ojos (in English, that’s “open your eyes”)–better know stateside as the original Spanish version of the American remake Vanilla Sky, with eyes being an obvious connecting theme between the two; if you enjoy this movie and are looking for something similar to check out, Abre los ojos would be a great place to start. The aforementioned 2011 feature Sound of My Voice also provides a similar tone and ambiance–logical, considering it features many of the same collaborators, namely Brit Marling. If, on the other hand, this film leaves you wanting a more definitive sci-fi touch, check out the now-cult sci-fi hit Primer or the 2007 Spanish-language Timecrimes (I swear I don’t just watch Spanish sci-fi, they just seem to be making some of the best of it in the past few decades!).
While I did enjoy the film and was actually pleasantly surprised by the ways it didn’t live it up to my expectations, I still felt like there was a lot of build-up for not as much pay off as I was hoping for. Overall, I would give this film 3 1/2 Super Stars out of 5.