'I Origins' doesn't add up to much

Michael Pitt in I, Origins. (Courtesy)

Michael Pitt in I, Origins. (Courtesy)

Rating

2 Stars2/5

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 PM ET

I Origins is a love story that unfolds as a literal interpretation of an old adage: The eyes are the windows of the soul.

A molecular biologist (Michael Pitt) caught between heart and mind and between science and spirituality considers the meaning of life. His research concerns vision and evolution and his interest lies in the specificity of the iris; no two people can have the same eyes.

Or can they?

Our biologist, Ian Gray, meets an enigmatic woman (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) at a party. She wears a mask, but he photographs her eyes, as is his scientific research wont; she vanishes from the party before he can find out who she is.

A number of cosmic clues eventually lead Ian to her —via a billboard ad featuring her distinctive eyes. (Can we just say there's a certain undergraduate flavour to this film that suggests this is a nod to the billboard featuring the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby? Okay?)

Anyway, our scientist finds his mystery woman, and they fall in love. Her name is Sofi. She has a strong spiritual side, and doesn't understand why Ian has to be all about science, all of the time.

Meanwhile, Ian has a bright, beautiful new lab assistant (Brit Marling) who shares his passion for research and facts. As time passes, it's obvious there's some kind of heat between these science partners. Ian's relationships with both women eventually teach him that there can be a middle way between the world of hard facts and the world of intuition and religion. And sometimes those worlds dovetail.

Metaphors for sight abound in I Origins; literal and figurative blindness also enter into the story, sometimes in a heavy-handed fashion.

The movie is impressive on a visual level, but the storytelling is convoluted and the science/religion split seems somewhat fundamental. The last act, in which our biologist seeks out a child in India for her distinctive eyes, is inadvertently creepy. You can see what filmmaker Mike Cahill (Another Earth) is going for here, but it falls short of his philosophical intention, one would guess.

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