Birth (2004)

birth-2004-01-gA man is running in the park one snowy day, and collapses under a bridge dying from a heart attack, years later, still grieving, Anna attempts to move on with her life and is confronted by a little boy who says he’s her dead husband Sean. Is he really her re-incarnated lover, or just a young boy conning this grieving woman. For the whole time I sat, watching this, I kept thinking to myself “The makers are trying to convince us of  something”. What? I’m not entirely sure, but through the arduous time I watched “Birth”, it seemed like from the beginning to the climax, that everyone involved in this movie were attempting to convince us of something, but the closest verdict I’ve come to, was that they were trying to dissuade us in to thinking this was a good movie.

It was almost like a jewelry store teller attempting to convince us that fake gold is just as good. In the end “Birth” wants to be taken seriously as a sort of Ingmar Bergman-esque drama, but when all is said and done, it’s just Hollywood fluff posing as metaphorical philosophical fantasy. Through it all, I was speechless, because you have to wonder why this–a movie featuring a woman taking a bath with a young boy–would get an R, while “The Dreamers” which basically featured routine sexual acts would get an NC-17. “Birth” is a standing testament to the utter hypocrisy of the MPAA. But, no, I’m not saying I disliked this movie because it shows an older woman taking a bath with a young boy, as many of its critics have. But if the picture were flipped and it were an older man in his thirties, and a small girl went in to the bath with him, would there have been any less or much more of an uproar? Even if it applied to the storytelling as it did here?

I wonder, because they’re both just as graphic. I’m just at wits end wondering why “Birth” received little to no backlash, but that one scene which is only for about five minutes really isn’t what made this a bad movie. It’s that the film is as dull as a butter knife. With the ideas of re-incarnation and grieving, and the human mind’s after effects of grieving from a horrible personal loss, you assume the three writers would create a compelling story. The brother in law of the dead man married his wife, and he feels threatened once the young boy begins proving he’s the re-incarnated man, the main character played by Kidman attempts to re-connect with this boy and convinces herself. Those ideas would have made for fascinating watching, but it’s all just lackluster and lagging.

I couldn’t help be reminded of that joke about the midget who told the woman in the elevator that if she had sex with him, he’d grant her a wish, and in the end it turns out he’d suckered her. Either way, the story is preposterous instead of being metaphysical. It’s such a rambling piece of melodrama from start to finish that goes on like a snails pace, and presents some interesting ideas that it never confronts. The themes of the fragile mind making itself believe what it wants, the question of re-incarnation, the situation testing the relationships of these characters, nothing is ever truly accomplished. One of the main stars, Cameron Bright gives a very wooden one-note performance that is basically dwarfed by the strong supporting cast.

Bright seriously can do nothing but speak in monotonous one-liners and attempt to emote and had the character been played by a stronger young actor, it could have been an engrossing element in an otherwise incredibly wasteful film. Only up until the second half do we really get to know what the child is doing with these people, but by then I’d just stopped caring. “Birth” has the right ideas, it has some interesting concepts, and a good performance from the still beautiful Kidman, but with three writers, nothing is ever accomplished. With a dragging plot, one-note performances, a suspense-less mystery and pretentious production, it’s just another bad Hollywood movie pretending to be philosophical while Kidman has another turkey for her resume.