Dr. Ian Grey (Michael Pitt) is a cute scientist with tousled hair, tortoise print glasses and a wardrobe he must have picked up from Scientists-R-Us. He is man obsessed with studying patterns in eyes, looking for some proof that evolution is the only answer and that God doesn’t exist. I don’t know why so many movie scientists have personal vendettas against God (if they are atheists, why do they fight against something they don’t believe in?), but that is neither here nor there. Dr. Grey is trying to discover a commonality in eye patterns, something that shows that eyes evolved and were not created wholly unique (which is the current assumption). His lab partner, the whip-smart blond, Karen (Brit Marlin) and his technician/roommate; Kenny (Steven Yuen) makes this one of the more attractive labs in New York City.
Ian meets Sofi (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), an ethereal creature with unique eyes and an unwavering belief in a spiritual world and a cosmic power. Naturally, they fall in love and make an unlikely pair. Tragedy befalls them and the story leap forward seven years to find Ian and Karen married and expecting a child. They have a marriage either of convenience, or Karen is a very understanding woman, because Ian keeps the torch lit for Sofi.
At this point in the movie, the plot finally unfolds into an odd conspiracy theory/treasure hunt/spiritual discovery theme. To describe it would not only spoil it, but would take entirely too long as well. Let’s just say it has to do with a very unique pair of eyes and a trip to India, the Hollywood stand-in for the spiritual nexus of this world and the next.
There is a great deal wrong with I Origins, most noticeably the pacing. It is a slow burn, bordering on boring as it moves from one scene to the next. The first half sets up a series of motifs and themes that savvy moviegoers are sure to pick up and remember. The problem with the second half is that it takes the characters entirely too long to figure out something that the audience pieced together in the first ten seconds of a given scene. Not because any of the information given is trite, but because it telegraphs far too much. I spent the entire climax wondering if Ian was going to realize something that was smack in front of his face the whole time. Does this mean I would make a good scientist, or that Ian wasn’t that great in the first place?
The basic theme and ideas of I Origins are anything but new; they are as ancient as Earth’s earliest civilizations. Writer/director Mike Cahill slaps a fresh coat of paint on them and trots them out like they are some undiscovered and unknown secret. It is a mistake. Cahill is certainly not the first director to make it, but if he sped things up a little, then maybe it wouldn’t be so noticeable.