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‘Origins’ is rare sci-fi mystery that makes you think, feel

Friday, August 1, 2014
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Ian is a man of science. But he is still a man. And when a model-thin hottie with a strange accent comes on to him in a party, the nerdy guy whose “Can I take a picture of your eyes?” is no pick-up line, is smitten.

Ian, played by Michael Pitt of “Boardwalk Empire” and “Seven Psychopaths,” becomes obsessed. He has no name, no phone number. It was a costume party, so he never saw her face.

But he has that photo of her eyes - distinct, as well as her unique biometric identifier. Ian knows eyes. It’s what he studies. And when he spies her eyes on a billboard, he methodically sets out to track her down.

When he finally locks pupils on her on the subway “by accident,” she wordlessly acknowledges their connection. The stumbling, awkward man of science makes his best move. He shuffles to a romantic tune on his iPod, slides the headphones over her ears, and follows her off the train and into a whirlwind romance.

‘I Origins’

DIRECTED BY: Mike Cahill

STARRING: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling and Astrid Berghs-Frisbey

RATED: R GRADE: A

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

That would be a grand screen romance, all by itself. But it’s just the opening of “I Origins,” a moody, cerebral and very romantic mystery about love, chance, fate and science.

Sofi (Astrid Berghs-Frisbey) is passionate and spiritual. Dr. Ian Grey is all about the data. His work seeks final proof that the complex human eye developed through evolution, to “end the debate, once and for all,” with the Intelligent Design crowd. Sofi challenges that, as does his scientist’s eye for odd coincidences, random numbers that aren’t random.

His new research assistant, Karen (Brit Marling), is just as methodical, and she directs their hunt in a new direction. Meanwhile, Sofi moves in and argues that their love was fated.

Writer-director Mike Cahill (“Another Earth”) sparingly doles out the hard plot points, deftly emphasizing mood and character as the man of science finds himself wondering if there’s more to life than what he can grow in a petri dish.

A tragedy deepens the mystery and becomes a potentially world-altering challenge to Ian’s worldview.

Cahill sets up a great, sexy and mystical romance, with Berghs-Frisbey the very embodiment of exotic accented desire. Then he introduces the testy and testing lab-partner Karen into the mix, a beautiful, brilliant student who is Ian’s subordinate but in many ways his superior.

“I Origins” is a true indie film roller-coaster ride, from moon-eyed romance to aching heartbreak, cerebral puzzle to incredibly moving, emotional resolution to that puzzle.

Here’s a piece of speculative fiction that will stick with you long after the last Transformer’s battery has died.

 
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