If I Origins was a satire about the modern creep of hipster condescension into every faux-thoughtful, appropriated cinematic aphorism it could find, it would be a masterwork. If you can read it that way, the movie’s still a pretty amazing bingo card: just enough mysticism to self-justify a little stalking, just enough handwavey science to self-justify the laughable drop in acumen later and just enough rising-music revelations to self-justify a little cultural tourism.
Unfortunately, I Origins is stone serious. Dr. Ian Grey (Michael Pitt, striving) hopes to uncover the origins of the eye as proof of evolution—a promising-enough premise, even if the title makes things feel a little on the nose. This quest leads him to a manic pixie dream girl (Astrid Berges-Frisbey, ethereal) with eyes he can’t forget. Luckily, she’s a model, so it doesn’t take much stalking before he’s found her. When their relationship’s cut short by tragedy, he turns to his lab assistant (Brit Marling, squandered) for comfort, only to discover work and life will challenge his assumptions about the metaphysical universe in a way no one could ever expect—unless you’ve seen any of the trailers, in which case you will absolutely be expecting it.
It’s a disappointing sophomore outing for writer-director Mike Cahill, whose Another Earth was an interesting, resonant thought experiment that handled its metaphors far more nimbly. Here, the wonder of scientific discovery exists largely as a platform for eyebrow-raising quasi-spiritual shenanigans which often seem to be positioned just to make Grey feel better, an impression the many limpid close-ups don’t do much to shake. Unfortunately, an attempt to force deeper meaning through excess of style and a rousing score doesn’t get enough return on investment. Instead, I Origins quietly sinks under the weight of its own intentions.