November 8, 2004

Birth: True Love Can Happen Twice

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Birth is not so much a film about reincarnation as it is a surreal love story. Anna (Nicole Kidman) is an emotionally guarded manhattanite trying to move on with her life after having quietly grieved for her late husband, Sean, over ten long years. On the eve of her engagement to a new love, a ten-year-old boy named Joseph (Cameron Bright) appears in the lobby of her building and later tells her, unwaveringly, that he is Sean — her former husband.

A disbelieving Anna tells her family and friends about the odd encounter. At first, all are incredulous, but, as the boy continues to feed them private information about his past life with Anna, their certainty begins to crumble. Some are intrigued, others are envious and angry. We see Anna’s austere outer layers peel away to reveal the woman who might have existed ten years ago.

The characters exist in a toned down, muted world. The soundtrack is minimal, dialogue is sparse and nothing is directly fed to the viewer. However, the style heightens certain moments, which, while quiet, are strangely electrifying. Audiences are simultaneously absorbed and unsettled by the drama as it lopes on toward its conclusion. Can a woman find love with a ten year old boy?

Director Jonathan Glazer’s intention was to examine how ordinary people navigate the uncharted territories of love and how they deal with deep losses in life. The relationship between Anna and Joseph seems strange and even alarming at times but there is nothing perverse about the union. It is in fact quite beautiful and audiences might find themselves rooting for the pair by the end.

Birth’s characters are realistically drawn and their intricacies as well as the intricacies of their relationships are uncovered over time. Bright seems to be a natural at evoking a preternaturally wise essence and he holds his own against Kidman who returns to a more modern portrayal of female complexity.

Birth is a film, which should not be ignored. If at any time the film begins to lag, Glazer adds a little intrigue at exactly the right moment to keep audiences interested. The film may be too subtle for some but it will have an extended after-life in the minds of many others who wonder what might’ve been.

Archived article by Lauren Simpson
Sun Staff Writer