Movie Review: Birth - Jonathan Frazier

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Jonathan Glazier's Birth debuted at the 61st Venice International Film Festival (2004), a debut that was followed by negative whistling and boos at the end. The film held great promise: a man is shown running in the snow in the opening scene, with a tracking shot from above. Its the kind of soft entry to a film that is promising. All of a sudden this man named Sean is gone, and dead, the husband of Anna, played by Nicole Kidman. The setting of the film is in New York, and Sean and Anna’s home is a spacious and old apartment. Anna grieves for her husband for a decade when suddenly a young boy appears, age 10, claiming to be the reincarnation of her husband, efficiently played by Cameron Bright. For a while Anna doubts him , but later wants to believe it. We want to believe it. Anna’s mother played by the magnificent Lauren Bacall wants to believe it. But her budding fiancé is not happy at all with the situation.

The story has the spooky kind of feel of The Sixth Sense, but Glazier is too pragmatic a director and doesn’t want to go there. His message is one of realism: what if someone claims to be the reincarnation of someone who has died. What sorts of emotions are raised when this possibility presents itself. Personally I don’t know very many people who have been confronted with small children that claim to be embodied spirits of the dead, so if this is supposed to be a new twist on the subject of the undead it fails miserably. Nicole Kidman sports a short wig in this film, that doesn’t always neatly conceal her hair. There is one SCENE when she attends the opera and the camera closely watches the emotions on her face. At the Venice press conference she was asked what she was thinking about it because it certainly seemed to be a pregnant moment. Nicole could not rightly recall. Maybe she was thinking about what to do after the shoot. For her the closeup was uneventful. Ms Kidman looking a little ravaged from back to back films could not satisfy our curiosity with an existential meaning of the shot.

Anne Heche for once actually does a pretty decent job as a woman who was Sean’s secret lover, unbeknownst to Anna, who believed while she was married that her relationship to Sean was perfect. The event is certainly realistic, one of several plot twists that Glazier provides, but that fail to elevate the film to artistic stature. Perhaps that is why the film received only limited release in the US and went straight to DVD after some local distribution. But the most moronic scene is the one where Nicole sways in her wedding day at the seashore in a state of prolonged distress for all the promise that young Sean brought to her grief process over the man she loved.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Venice Italy
More Information:
Birth - Jonathan Frazier