The questions Cahill poses in I Origins are certainly interesting, though through the ancient cliché of the eyes being the window to the soul. However cliché it might be, Cahill approaches the subject delicately and carefully, ultimately creating a charming and thought-provoking piece of cinema.
The main problem I had with the film was the under-developed female characters, who were often reduced to stereotypes, each used as a different tool by the male protagonist for his own evolution. Sofi is almost a manic pixie dream girl, in that she is viewed as an exotic phase for Ian far before she is seen as a real person, Karen is the stable wife figure, Priya the mother, and Salomina the innocent child.
Sofi is perhaps presented in this way deliberately; the film is entirely from Ian’s point of view, and so by observing the way in which he views Sofi, the audience is reminded of his superiority complex, his close minded approach to life, which is ultimately the foundation of his character development. The problem with this is that it leaves him an unsympathetic character, and as the only one who undergoes any sort of true evolution it is disappointing.
Aside from this, though, there were many aspects of the film that were wonderful. The script is brilliant; everything said feels absolutely natural, but is at the same time completely necessary to the narrative (even if this is not immediately apparent). There are some fantastic moments of humour which never feel forced, helping to make the world of the film and all the characters within it completely believable.
The middle portion of the film perhaps lacks momentum as the narrative seems to change its course, but this slow section means that the moment it all comes together in a glorious epiphany is all the more wonderful, and the definite highlight of the film.
The cinematography was stunning, and perfectly meshed with the soundtrack to help create the dreamy air of discovery that was present throughout.
Towards the end I admit I was a little concerned with how the film would end, but its inability to draw real conclusions was the perfect accompaniment to the main action. A full change in Ian’s beliefs would have undermined it, but by allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions, Ian’s own journey to find open-mindedness was reflected.
Overall, Mike Cahill’s I Origins is beautiful; well-written, well-delivered and well-directed, despite its definite flaws, and I have been thinking about it ever since it ended.