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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Postpartum disappointment

“Birth” had the makings of a good movie. When Anna (Nicole Kidman) is confronted with a ten-year-old boy claiming to be the reincarnation of her dead husband, she finds herself falling in love with a child. With a premise like that, there should have been prime, grade-A drama. Instead, audiences are confronted with forced ambiguity and a vastly disappointing end to a puzzling film.
“Birth” begins with a voice-over from Anna’s husband, Sean (Michael Desautels). After explaining his skepticism about the idea of an afterlife and openly mocking the idea of reincarnation, he announces his intention to go for a run. Karma comes up to bite Sean in the behind – as he dies of a heart attack during his jog, and the scene then switches to a child’s birth before flashing forward 10 years.
Anna, now a widow, has moved on with her life and is engaged to Joseph (Danny Huston). She is more or less at peace with her life and her future with a new husband when a young child arrives at her door claiming to be Sean, offering a cryptic message: Marrying Joseph would be a mistake.
Cameron Bright’s performance as the child, coincidently also named Sean, is impressive to say the least. Managing to convey simultaneously the innocence of a child and the world-weariness of a man who has lived two lives, Bright is at no time in any danger of being overshadowed by the talented actors with whom he shares the screen.
Kidman’s own subdued performance as Anna suggests the grief and heartbreak that comes with Sean’s return without the use of over-the-top melodrama – for the most part. Director Jonathan Glazer (whose previous film “Sexy Beast” is not to be missed) often relies on heavy-handed camera movements and close-ups of the actors. In slow methodical zooms, Glazer sets the camera on each character as they face the internal angst that dwells inside. Luckily for Glazer, his actors are more than ready to support his indulgences.
Watching the movie, audiences will have no problem believing that young Sean could in fact be Anna’s husband. Kidman will leave little doubt that Anna is falling in love with the hope of her husband’s return – albeit in the body of a small boy. Huston delivers an equally powerful performance as Anna’s fiance. At first amused with the child’s claim, he quickly loses his cool with the boy. A sea of rage and anger churns beneath his seemingly calm exterior. All-star character actor Peter Stormare also makes an appearance in the film – always a good thing.
In fact, the film’s actors turn in such powerful performances, the film could have been completely sans dialogue and audiences would have still understood a hefty amount of the plot. A silent film would have also allowed composer Alexandre Desplat an even greater chance to shine. His haunted melodies carry the film, exploring the emotional depth with a cultivated orchestra that answers the long-standing hypothetical question: What if Danny Elfman and John Williams were merged into one colossal music-making monster?
With so much going for it, why did “Birth” fail to deliver? With such a controversial premise, it seemed the film’s writers simply hit a brick wall. Unsure of which way to go, they simply took an easy escape route, leaving behind a trail of ambiguous excrement. While the last scene may have been haunting and emotional, it failed as far as payoffs go. Audiences emotionally invested themselves in a story that simply puttered off to an uninspired finish. While the director has every right to withhold some of the film’s answers and a feeling of open-ending will often help a picture’s finale, the answers “Birth” did offer failed to ignite audiences’ imaginations, leaving them to exit the theater with an overall feeling of apathy.

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