Birth

"Bad"

Birth Review


Jonathan Glazer's stylish debut Sexy Beast stood out for the uncharacteristically explosive and vicious performance the director coaxed out of stately Ben Kingsley. Evidence of any such energy all but escapes Birth, Glazer's anticipated follow-up to his kinetic gangster picture. A plodding and pretentious thriller, this beyond-the-grave affair ends up being too art-house for the mainstream crowd and too mainstream for the art-house crowd. Loosely translated, that means it doesn't work for anyone.

Birth hangs its hat on a delicate premise that demands kid gloves if it seriously hopes to sustain the already shaky credibility. An elegant transition of life forces starts the film. Physician Sean dies while jogging. Simultaneously, a baby is born. Fast forward 10 years, where a cave-eyed child coincidentally named Sean (Cameron Bright) claims to Upper West Side basket case Anna (Nicole Kidman) that he is her reincarnated ex-husband. Anna's humorless fiancée (Danny Huston) scoffs at the idea. Her mother (a neglected Lauren Bacall) displays indifference. ("I never liked Sean, anyway," she articulates.) But Anna's not so quick to write the boy off.

Shot under inadequate light and paced like a slug dragging a jet ski, Birth would gladly trade its right arm for the pleasure of being described as atmospheric. I'm going to go with "sedated beyond the point of feeling." Glazer's steady camera lingers for what seems to be an eternity on his leading lady's concerned face, hoping beyond hope to capture vital emotions of longing, guilt, grief, or suspicion. None register. Meanwhile, the naturally spooky Bright perfects these monotonous, robotic line readings, but little else. He states with no real enthusiasm, "I'm Sean," then waits for everyone to believe him. You'd imagine Sean's reincarnated spirit would be confused or upset. Bright has one facial expression - sleepy - so he can only carry his role so far.

Hard as this is to believe, but Glazer's cast actually entertains the notion of reincarnation, toying with the idea that this kid could be Sean. The trouble is we never share the group's blind faith. Most of the time, Anna and Sean behave like they have a valuable piece of information we haven't seen or won't be given. A key is eventually produced to unlock the film's secrets, but the solution to young Sean's insistence is laughably preposterous. Either Sean is Anna's dead husband or he isn't. By its final frame, Birth manages to avoid deciding on either option.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!



Birth

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th November 2004

Box Office USA: $5.0M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 88

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Anna, as Young Sean, as Joseph, as Eleanor, as Laura, as Clara, as Clifford

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