August 8, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'I Origins' finds the balance between science and spirit

Michael Pitt and Brit Marling star as scientists who are on the verge of making a major scientific discovery in 'I Origins.' (Jelena Vukotic)

Whether soft connective tissue or screeching dissonance, modern cinema seems set on exploring the relationship between science and spirituality.

That exploration is at the heart of the biggest box office hit of all time, “Avatar,” it fueled the recent Scarlett Johansson hit “Lucy,” and it rises again this week with the release of the more subtly fascinating “I Origins,” in which the quest for clear fact becomes a search for more.

The film, written and directed by Mike Cahill (“Another Earth”), is essentially broken into two parts. In the first, Ian (Michael Pitt), a molecular biologist whose lifelong fascination with eyes drives his work, meets and falls in love with Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), an eccentric French model. Meanwhile Ian and his lab partner, Karen (Brit Marling), are on the verge of a major scientific discovery.

Jump ahead some years and Ian and Karen are married and have a child. One day they get a call from a doctor saying their child may have autism; can they bring him in for some tests? They do, but soon realize the tests are bogus. These doctors are looking for something in their child, but it isn’t autism.

It’s the eyes, of course. Every person is supposed to have a unique iris pattern, like a fingerprint. But their child’s pattern matches someone else’s. This opens up all sorts of spiritual possibilities and sends Ian first to a remote dairy farm, and then on to India.

If this sounds jumbled, it’s not, it’s just that key plot points must be reserved. Cahill spends the entire film bringing a sense of wonder to the desperately rational Ian, and if the film takes on a glow toward the end, that glow feels well-earned.

The tie between the science and spirituality has been made.

'I Origins'

GRADE: B+

Rated R for some sexuality/nudity, and language

Running time: 107 minutes

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