Review: Birth

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  October 29, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

With so much controversy, an echo of a horror legend, and an Oscar winning actress, why is Birth so boring?

Birth stars Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman as Anna, a wealthy socialite who loses her husband quite suddenly on a tepid fall day. Anna is a wreck, and through the patience of suitor Joseph (Danny Huston), she is trying to find a way to move on and " if Joseph plays his cards right " marry him.

Ten years after the death of Anna's husband, Anna's family has gathered together to celebrate Anna's mother Eleanor's (Lauren Bacall) birthday. When the candles are blown out and the family laughs with glee, a voice is heard. It is asking to speak to Anna and it is coming from a strange 10-year-old boy named Sean (Cameron Bright). The family is shocked that a stranger has walked into their private function.

Anna ushers the boy out of the room and he confesses to Anna that he is in fact the reincarnation of her dead husband, who also happened to be named Sean. Can it be? How much does Anna want to believe this child? And is this the kind of revelation that could destroy a person's life? Is the boy real or a fraud?

Birth has a solid opening, but since the concept is so totally out there it is a hard one to grasp, let alone accept.

The film is so quiet and withdrawn, and it almost echoes the feelings of Kidman's Anna. The film itself almost feels like it is mourning as it searches for meaning in a slew of dullness.

Kidman looks great and delivers a strong performance as Anna, but the film never allows us to see into Anna enough to really see what she sees in the boy. I also really enjoyed the solid performance from young Cameron Bright, who also played the spooky kid in last year's Godsend.

I really didn't like the performance from Kidman's love interest, played by Danny Huston. His character to me came off as a vulture circling the carcass of Kidman's grieving widow. He oozed slime and the love scenes with Kidman made me want to scream for a motion sickness bag.

I have often said that a lot can be told from the quiet moments in a film. There are a lot of quiet moments in Birth, and what is strange is that they have nothing to say.

So what is all the controversy about?

The controversial scene involving a naked Kidman having a bath with a naked child comes off as nothing that shocking. The film could have probably made sense with or without the scene. It seems overly pushed, and the scene really isn't even a good one.

There are a lot of ways that I could see that this film is trying to be something it is entirely not. There are some echoes of Roman Polanski, but there was a lot of meaning and layers in his use of silence. All you can hear in the silence of Birth is an audience member whispering, "Can we go yet?"

How can a film like this be so dull? I don't know. It just is. (2 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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