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I Origins

Year: 2014
Production Co: Verisimilitude
Director: Mike Cahill
Writer: Mike Cahill
Cast: Michael Pitt, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Britt Marling, Steven Yuen

Just one concept really thrilled me about this film, the idea that the soul is immutable, and science gets a glimpse into some proof about it.

It's delivered through an idea that's as fascinating as it is poetic – that the eyes are truly the windows into the soul to the extent that the eye-print (which is as individual as the fingerprints) can reveal evidence of reincarnation when someone shows up with the same eye print as someone who's lived before them.

All that was left was to hope the execution of the film lived up to some a wonderful idea, and despite a tendency to meander, I Origins mostly does.

Michael Pitt is Ian Grey, a molecular biologist who hopes to use proof of the eye's evolution to finally disprove the existence of God. At the same time he meets a young French woman, Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) at a party and feels an instant attraction.

He's drawn to her partly because he's been looking for her. Sofi is a model and her eyes are on a billboard Ian feels he was led to by an extraordinary string of coincidences. It's as if they were meant to meet even though he doesn't believe in things like fate.

Even though he loses track of Sofi at the party, Ian keeps running into her, and the pair embark on a romance that's as soft and languid as it is scrappy and scruffy befitting their Gen Y urban lifestyle.

Things are going swimmingly at work with Ian's lab partner Karen (Britt Marling) making progress, but a suddenly tragedy that takes Sofi away from Ian upends his life.

The film cuts to several years hence, when Ian and Karen are married and expecting their first child. Thanks to a national database of eye prints their old friend and colleague Kenny (Steven Yuen) maintains through his health care company, some strange things show up.

When computers cross-reference them, people start showing up with the same eye prints as someone who's died. When Ian and Karen dig deeper, it seems the person with the print now feels like they know the loved ones of the person who had it before.

It threatens to overturn everything Ian has believed and is trying to prove, but when a kid is born in poverty in India who has Sofi's exact iris pattern, his quest turns even more urgent.

It doesn't all hang together as well as you want it to and some scenes and elements don't make it obvious enough what they have to do with the story, but it's certainly one that will keep you thinking. If you're not interested in the science behind the central concept there won't be as much in it for you, but there's a stylish pace and colour palette that's a pleasure to watch.

It's therefore no surprise that it has the same writer/director as Another Earth. It's a similarly fantastic idea grounded in science that beautifully enmeshes the spiritual with the mechanical.

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