I’m starting this review but I still don’t really know what’s going on with this movie. I felt two ways when I was watching it, torn somewhere between “wow this is a really thought provoking examination of some sort of weird shared insanity or something” and “this is completely perposterous.” I’ve read reviews that came down on either side, but this jury’s still out. Hopefully by the end of the review I’ll know what I’m talking about.
Anna (Nicole Kidman) is looking forward to getting married again after the death of her first husband Sean ten years ago. It’s been hard for her to move on, but finally she has done so with Joseph (Danny Huston) who has been wonderfully supportive of her grieving process. Amidst planning for the big day, a little boy, also named Sean (Cameron Bright) shows up at her mother’s (Lauren Bacall) birthday party, claiming to be her reincarnated dead husband. He is about ten years old, and knows details about Sean and Anna’s life together. Anna resists at first, but then comes to believe that Sean actually is her Sean.
The film does have a twist, where we find out exactly what’s going on in this kid’s mind. I will say this, it’s pretty well crafted. It’s one of those twists that I certainly could have seen coming, but didn’t. However, it’s after this point that the film gets weird. It was weird up to this point, but it a way that made some sort of sense. We see Anna’s slow but (semi-) logical change of mind, the steps she goes through to believe that Sean actually is her reincarnated husband. Then the film gets even more disturbing because they think they’re in love but of course he’s only ten years old. There’s a particularly heartbreaking moment early on when Sean looks his mother dead in the eyes and says he’s not her son anymore. I don’t really have any complaints with the beginning of the film. It’s mesmerizing and pretty darn creepy.
The end is very strange because it only explains what happened halfway. Everything is cleared up and we know how this reincarnation thing got started, but we don’t know why. I suppose what’s really bothering me is the film doesn’t seem to have an opinion on what happened between Anna and Sean. It just sort of leaves us hanging, and if you’re going to continue a movie after the twist you have to flush out the implications of that twist a bit more than Glazer did here. Perhaps if they had ended the film on a more logical note than I would have been let down, but as it stands right now I feel that would have been the better course of action.
I will say this for it, the film’s pacing is really great. Something in how its shot and edited together is very mesmerizing. I wouldn’t call it fast paced, but I literally had no sense of time when I was watching this movie. It’s about a hundred minutes so it isn’t very long. There are a lot of slow tracking shots that appear to suggest probing into the psyche of the characters. Futher illustrating the film’s strange sense of time is a shot at about halfway into the picture that is just a three minute closeup of Kidman’s face. I had no idea that it was actually that long until I read a review that pointed it out. That’s also a testament to Kidman’s performance, which is masterful.
So all in all, I think I’ll have to say that Birth is pretty good, though it would have been better if it had offered a bit more insight into Sean’s mindset in the film’s final moments. It’s a very interesting concept and Glazer sets it up very well in the beginning fo the film, making it creepy and suspensful without using a lot of shock tactics. It’s shot and edited wonderfully, it just didn’t quite follow through on the ending.
“No. I wanna talk to Anna.”
Long story short: 3/4 stars
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