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The film critic Nathan Rabin coined the phrase "manic pixie dream girl" to denote a trope character in indie films, that of the kooky unconventional beauty who opens the eyes of the "broodingly soulful" male protagonist to life's wonders. Think Natalie Portman in Garden State and you've got it.

I Origins, an indie-ish reincarnation sci-fi, whips up an "MPDG" that should similarly succeed in annoying most female viewers. In this case, it is played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey, who appears to Dr Ian Gray (Boardwalk Empire's Michael Pitt) at a fancy dress party claiming to be from another planet and discussing mythological creatures. The pair become an item, his hard scientific outlook getting prodded by her airy-fairy carry on.

Of course, this is not entirely what I Origins is about, although it may as well be. Instead, what writer/director Mike Cahill (Another Earth) gives us is a tale about young ambitious boffins uncovering replication in the seemingly unique patterns of the human iris. Could this be a ripple in the very existential fabric? Maybe more than one person can have an identical window to the soul.

It is admirable how far Cahill's film and his fine cast get out of such a premise, reason enough to go easy on I Origins. But there is also a woozy, hand-held wonder about Markus Forderer's cinematography and a few riddles woven deftly into the screenplay. Shame then that it lets itself down with some iffy dialogue and a slightly anticlimactic ending.


Now showing

Sunday Independent