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Flix: 'I Origins' an intelligent, beautifully shot film

July 23, 2014 at 2:23 a.m.

"I Origins" is a beautifully shot film from director Mike Cahill.

I ORIGINS

• DIRECTOR: Mike Cahill

• CAST: Michael Pitt, Brit Marling, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Steven Yeun, Archie Panjabi, Cara Seymour, Kashish

• OPENS Friday in Houston at the Sundance Cinema, Edwards Grand Palace and Cinemark Tinseltown 22 in The Woodlands. The film also premieres in Austin at the Regal Arbor at Great Hills and in San Antonio at the Bijou Cinema Bistro on Aug. 8.

"The eyes are the windows to the soul."

That line has been quoted by everyone from Cicero to William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci; there's even various versions of that quote in the Bible.

In writer-director Mike Cahill's follow-up to his debut feature "Another Earth," which was co-written by his "I Origins" star Brit Marling, the topic of faith becomes the focal point of the film, which scratches the surface of the creationism versus evolution debate.

Michael Pitt plays Dr. Ian Grey, a molecular biologist studying the evolution of the eye. He is obsessed with taking photos of the iris, a biometric identifier unique as an individual's fingerprint. While at a Halloween party, he meets a mysterious woman, Sofi, played by French-Spanish actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey, who is dressed in leather and wearing a mask. She agrees to let him snap a photo of her stunning eyes, which, because of a genetic mutation called sectoral heterochromia features a palette of colors including blue, green and gold. Sofi vanishes into the night before Ian can get her name and number, but they accidently meet again on the subway, where her eyes give away her identity.

Ian is a man of science who believes his new experiment with lab partner Karen (Brit Marling) - the use of light-sensitive cells to give blind worms the sensation of sight - will draw him one step closer to proving evolution is responsible for our existence - not intelligent design.

Sofi, on the other hand, is a spiritual person who believes in fate. After a tragic turn of events and a compelling discovery, Ian's world is shattered as he must now consider the possibility of a supreme being after taking a trip halfway around the world to New Delhi, where a young girl named Salomina, played by newcomer Kashish, may hold the key to his spiritual quest.

Marling, a Sundance Film Festival veteran whose work I've enjoyed in films like "Another Earth" (2011), "Sound Of My Voice" (2011) and "The East" (2013), puts forth another good performance.

Pitt, star of Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" (2003) and HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," is convincing as the hip, young scientist. But it's Berges-Frisbey's performance of Sofi that is compelling to watch. Honorable mention goes out to Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn in "The Walking Dead," and Indian child actor Kashish, who was discovered in an orphanage in New Delhi. German cinematographer Markus Forderer used two RED cameras simultaneously to capture all the exquisite shots of New York and India's capital, so the film looks great.

"I Origins" is a cerebral journey that asks many questions, just like Cahill's debut feature "Another Earth." It's intelligent and emotional, so expand your mind while you take in a movie.

RATING: Four stars

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Houston Film Critics Society and juror at the Victoria Independent Film Festival. He reviews films every Friday on Hit Radio 104.7 KVIC. Contact Joe at jfriar95@gmail.com.

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