Saturday, February 27, 2016
During the last 20 minutes of I Origins, I found myself hoping it wouldn't slide into ridiculousnous. I was enjoying this unexpectedly absorbing exploration of fate versus coincidence, faith versus science. Would it sell out with an easy ending?
Scientist Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) has an unexplained animosity toward Intelligent Design's contention that the human eye is proof of a higher power. With his lab assistant Karen (Brit Marling), he's on a mission to trace the eye's evolution, consumed by the idea of proving that science, not spirituality, can explain why each iris pattern is unique. A chance encounter with Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), a free-spirited young woman with beautiful and distinctive eyes, threatens to detour him. Is what happens next fate or just random chance?
Fast forward seven years. The story veers in an unpredictable direction when an eye scan of Ian's daughter introduces a mystery he can't help but pursue. The search eventually leads him to India, where he will have to question his own devotion to science, just as he asks others to question their spiritual beliefs.
Coincidences and plot shifts that might have relegated this to B-movie fare are handled with subtly by writer/director Mike Cahill. The performances by Pitt and Marling in particular are grounded and believable.
And the ending? The last scene treats the audience with respect, letting the final discovery sink in rather than have some character mouth a literal explanation.
Hang around for the photo montage at the final credits, which remind you that not all science is in the service of enlightenment.