On the Silver Screen – I Origins
I Origins is a difficult movie to talk about as a basic summary of the story won’t really capture what it is actually about. Basically it’s about a scientist named Ian (Michael Pitt), a scientist whose field of study is that of the eye. Through his research he stumbles upon something monumental that stands to change society fundamentally.
On the surface the premise is something I find really interesting, I really like science fiction and I love it even more when it’s something potentially thought provoking so I was fairly hyped for this film. The film does the scientific aspects of the plot really well with an emphasis on hypothesis and research, something that I personally don’t see very often in films about scientific discovery so I found this really refreshing.
The characters act like scientists and approach each hypothesis in a scientifically realistic way as they carry out their tests with as few variables as possible. I found the discovery fascinating and the scenes where it was discussed were great; the implications of it were not ignored and great care was taken to not make assumptions before having more data. It is clear that Mike Cahill went to great lengths to ensure the scientific aspects are as accurate as possible and the film is all the better for it. Unfortunately the momentum of the scientific discovery wears off pretty quickly with very little payoff for the hard work and research the characters undergo. It’s very realistic for initial findings to be pretty inconclusive but in the context of a film story it feels a little empty and flat.
Much of the film focuses on Ian’s relationship with Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) which seems equal parts spontaneously passionate and unhealthy, it’s clear from the beginning of the film that the relationship isn’t sustainable based on how different the two of them seem. Sofi is representative of the religious side of the debate where Ian represents the science and everyone knows that the two schools of thought can’t easily coexist. In terms of the contrast the film does this pretty well but I was never really engaged by either of the characters at any point. I never found their relationship interesting or the characters in any way likeable so I found their scenes together difficult to sit through.
In terms of how the story was structured I felt that there was a complete disconnect between the romantic relationship side of the film and the scientific aspects; the two sides of the story felt awkwardly disparate and made the film feel disjointed as a result. This isn’t helped by awkward pseudo philosophical dialogue that don’t really manage to say anything meaningful about the implications of things which is a shame as the film does mention a lot of interesting issues like intelligent design vs evolution, the concept of a soul and whether that exists as well as the question of what meaning our lives really have. Without going into major spoiler territory I can’t really say too much more about these things but in general I don’t think the film has enough focus to do what it sets out to do.
This film was very uneven and places too much emphasis on the uninteresting relationship aspects of the plot. When the story delves into the scientific nature of studying and researching a hypothesis it is fascinating but there isn’t a lot of payoff scientifically speaking and the plot meanders around the relationship side of things awkwardly. In general the characters are unlikeable and uninteresting which makes it impossible for me to root for them and their romance. With a lot more focus on the implications of the discovery this film could have been something really great.