I Origins

Jul 30, 2014

Intelligent thriller/sci-fi  to challenge your beliefs about the human soul. In the end, it's lab and libido, Baby.

I Origins

Grade: B+

Director: Mike Cahill (Another Earth)

Screenplay: Cahill

Cast: Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths), Brit Marling (Another Earth)

Rating: R

Runtime: 113 min

by John DeSando

“The eyes are the window of the soul.” (English Proverb)

As an agnostic, I can predictably support the Darwinian theory of evolution, until I argue with my Jehovah’s Witnesses friends, who claim the intricacy of the eye evidences intelligent design rather than evolution.

The film I Origins plays with that dialectic, starting from the scientific and then moving to the spiritual, in a most delightfully sci-fi, faith vs. science way.

  Molecular biologist Ian Gray (Michael Pitt), who appropriately reads counter-evolutionist Richard Dawkins in a café, studies the eye with the aim of disproving creation. Falling in love with the masked beauty Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) at a Halloween party doesn’t help his cause because she seems to evidence a spiritual connection that gives the lie to his theory. Anyway, his subdued but beautiful lab assistant, Karen (Brit Marling, who is always cool) not only helps him to discover a breakthrough with worms, but she also complicates his romance with Sofi.

The romances are a large part of I Origins' charm, so measured are they, so mystical in the affections Ian displays for both women, but mostly for Karen, whom he initially sees only as a lab assistant annoyance.  Sofi of the gold-flecked eyes (a perfect marriage of lab and libido) is lamentably almost a cipher, a model who represents the elusive allure of his own scientific and philosophical contradictions. While his love connections do not determine the success of his research, they provide the humanity necessary for any significant study of the soul’s origins.

As the globe-trotting scientist/detective lands in India to meet the eyes that uncannily replicate Sofia’s golden ones, the film moves into the fabulous as it suggests the transformation of the scientist to someone who believes in the soul and the spiritual connectedness of all human beings.

As Ian and Karen work on the non-atheistic outcome, she places the emphasis on where most films will land:  "I didn't ask you what you thought, I asked you how you felt."   I Origins moves me closer to the idea of God through my feelings than all the Catechism lessons forced on me by the nuns.

If you’re not up on your ophthalmology, you might leave the film early. If, however, like me, you go wherever the filmmaker wants regardless of your knowledge, I Origins entertainingly travels to New York, Idaho, and India. It offers the biological, metaphysical, and dramatic in a short two hours with intelligence and suspense—not something you can say about most summer films, much less science fiction.

“The eye is the window of the soul, the mouth the door. The intellect, the will, are seen in the eye; the emotions, sensibilities, and affections, in the mouth.” Hiram Powers, American sculptor (1805 - 1873) 

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at