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  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
from Film Forum, 11/04/04

Director Jonathan Glazer's last film Sexy Beast earned Ben Kingsley an Oscar nomination for his role as a scandalously foul-mouthed gangster. Glazer's new film Birth is being considered "scandalous" for entirely different reasons.

The film follows the troubling experience of a widow (Nicole Kidman) who is preparing to re-marry when she encounters a young boy (Cameron Bright) claiming to be her reincarnated husband. She initially dismisses the audacious claim, but then the boy forbids her to marry her new fiancé, and proceeds to reveal that he has intimate knowledge of her former marriage—knowledge that could only belong to her former husband. Slowly she is drawn toward the edge of madness as this seductive, persistent, yet alarmingly under-aged assailant gains influence over her feelings.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says the director "encases his film with a certain gravitas that sets a creepy mood and atmosphere within which the characters never seem quite comfortable or settled. While it can hardly be considered a paranormal film, the atmosphere he creates certainly works for this odd and often thought-provoking material. The conclusion is weak and disappointing as Glazer opts for a convenient escape from the metaphysical dilemma of his characters."

Sherri McMurray (Christian Spotlight) says the film has "a great start" that "stirs up lots of tension." She adds that "the acting is intelligent at best and lack luster at worst," and concludes that it "loses momentum and is bogged down with painful attempts at some sort of thought-provoking answers to reincarnation and/or life after death."

Most mainstream critics say this Birth is nothing to celebrate.

from Film Forum, 11/04/04

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "Controversy notwithstanding, Glazer has managed to craft an elegiac meditation on love, loss and mortality, buttressed by exceptional performances from the assembled ensemble, hauntingly evocative visuals, deliberate pacing and a disquietingly plaintive score. Kidman delivers a hypnotic performance. The film ends on a rather ambiguous note, never committing one way or the other to either a supernatural or psychological solution to the central mystery. And while contrary to the Catholic understanding of life after death, the theme of reincarnation is handled in an intelligent manner." He adds, however, that there are troubling scenes that might have been handled better.

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