By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — I Origins (which could just as easily have been titled “Eye Origins”) is a cerebral science-versus-spirituality drama, intoxicating at certain times, exasperating at others.
Michael Pitt plays Dr. Ian Gray, a molecular biologist interested in, if not obsessed with, the human eye, the evolution of which has become his life’s work.
He is forever photographing people’s eyes, and he focuses on the iris, which is as individualistic as a snowflake.
He’s hoping to do no less than determine whether the eyes truly are, as the saying goes, the window to the soul. And in so doing, he expects to demonstrate the validity of the theory of evolution and essentially end the debate between creationists and Darwinians by disproving the belief of proponents of Intelligent Design that the human eye is too intricate to be the result of evolution.
He is, to say the least, ambitious. As is the film itself.
Then, at a Halloween party, he meets a masked beauty named Sofi, a model played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, whose eyes irresistibly compel him.
She later tells him that she feels she knows him from a previous life, and they begin an affair that leads to marriage.
But Sofi is suddenly killed in a freak accident, after which the narrative jumps ahead seven years. The scientist and his dedicated research assistant, played by Brit Marling –- previously platonic colleagues — are now married and have a child.
Then comes a breakthrough: the lab partners make a stunning discovery that takes Gray to India, home of an iris-recognition ID program, in search of a particular set of eyeballs that appear to be identical to Sofi’s. We’re reminded at this point that many people in India believe in reincarnation and leave it at that.
Much of the science on display through I Origins has to be taken on… well, faith, but it’s never less than intriguing, however fuzzy the specifics.
Writer-director Mike Cahill (Another Earth) has a great eye and, even just as a visual experience, this offbeat film moves confidently to an ending that will either haunt you or make you roll your eyes as you mutter “aye-aye-aye.”
As for us, we’ll see 2½ stars out of 4 for the provocative and entertaining I Origins.
In this case, the eyes have it.