Director Mike Cahill opened some eyes a few years back with his indie sci-fi feature Another Earth. Now he’s back, working in a similar vein with his latest offering I Origins. The film garnered a heap of critical praise and numerous positive reviews coming out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it made its premiere. Opening in a limited release on July 18, the first trailer is here to tease the esoteric drama.
Written by Cahill, I Origins tells the story of Ian Gray (Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt), a PhD student in molecular biology, who, after seeing a string of 11s everywhere, follows them until he finds “the eyes that change this world”—he means both his individual world and in a greater, global sense. See, that happens to be Ian’s specialty, the evolution of the human eye, so who knows better than he? After a brief encounter with a model (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), he tracks her down and they fall in love. He’s a scientist, a pragmatist who believes what he can touch, see, and prove. On the other hand, she is more spiritual and mystical and sounds kind of like a hippie, but they vow to be together forever. After losing her—it certainly looks like she dies in this trailer, doesn’t it—he embarks on a quest that will alter our perceptions of the world.
More than anything, this trailer serves to create a mood and feel. From the dreamy slow motion images and monotone voiceover to the twee indie-rock ballad laid over the top, this practically screams “I am an independent film!” Full of grief and loss and esoteric romance, all built on a vague sci-fi foundation, this could go one of two ways. Perhaps it’s a genuinely emotional experience, the glowing reviews certainly indicate that this could very well be the case.
Then again, this could easily be a collection of overused tropes and pieces of visual rhetoric that amount to an empty aesthetic exercise. There is definitely enough in this trailer to be intriguing, but After Earth is such a cold, empty combination of quirks, ticks, and forced attempts to be ‘different’—a guy plays a freaking saw for crying out loud—that it is frustrating to watch. The fact that this film reteams Cahill with Another Earth star, and writer, Britt Marling, also gives me pause. That’s kind of a hit or miss proposition. I could easily see I Origins going either way, being another excellent addition to the indie sci-fi world, or a tired, affected, ostentatious display that never amounts to much more than a stylistic exercise.