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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.33%
Worth A Look: 17.33%
Average: 13.33%
Pretty Bad: 21.33%
Total Crap34.67%

5 reviews, 45 user ratings

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by MP Bartley

"A thriller for those who found 'The Village' too exciting."
2 stars

Some films have great concepts that work brilliantly: "Egocentric publicist is pinned down in a phone booth by a sniper. If he hangs up he dies". Some films have great concepts that don't work so well: "two divers are stranded in a shark-infested sea". But then there are some film that have dodgy concepts that are executed badly: "a ten year old boy convinces a soon-to-be-married Nicole Kidman that he's the reincarnation of her dead first husband - and everything happens REALLY SLOWLY".

Nicole Kidman is Anna who seemingly has it all. A loving and rich family, a good job, a plush apartment and a handsome and generous fiancee, Joseph (Danny Huston) who looks set to erase the pain of her first husbands death. But things change when a ten year old boy (Cameron Bright) turns up on her doorstep, He's called Sean - the name of her dead husband. But there's more similarities than that, he actually claims to be Sean, reincarnated and eager to convince Anna not to go through with her marriage to Joseph. After being initially dismissed, Sean keeps coming back with more and more facts and information that only the dead Sean would know. Could he really be who he claims to be or is there something more sinister going on?

Director and part-scripter Jonathan Glazers first film was 'Sexy Beast', a gangster film that looked great and had some interesting stylistic tricks, but ultimately suffered from a dull and familiar story that amounted to a lot of fuss about nothing. Glazer has a similar problem here.

'Birth' feels like the work of Stanley Kubrick at his most portentous and frustrating. There's a long, opening tracking shot with no dialogue that's pure Kubrick and the film moves at a slow doomy pace, full of long, awkward takes with uneasy silences between characters. There's a close-up of an emotionally confused Kidman's face at the opera which is pushing on for a good two minutes with no dialogue.

And while this adult tone and style gives 'Birth' a great deal of seriousness, it's a seriousness that it doesn't deserve and instead brings to mind Kubrick's more pretentious moments, or yes, M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Village'. It takes itself very seriously and lets us know it's serious by being very dull and very slow. Frequently at the same time.

C'mon are we really supposed to take this story as seriously as Glazer and Kidman do? It might - just - work as a campy, frivolous horror, but as an arty serious thriller trying to say something about the intensity of grief? Naaaah. It's a ludicrous premise that starts off mildly creepy, mainly due to Sean turning up everywhere, but soon begins to beggar belief. At no point does anyone call the police or a child psychologist. No-one actually says to Kidman "what on earth are you doing believing this kid?!". She invites Sean to spend the night in her apartment and no-one says anything. Including her fiancee. She shares a bath with the boy and never once asks herself if she's doing the right thing. It's a disturbing scene initially, but just descends into 'eww' squirms that ridicule the pomposity of the film. She asks him if he could provide her with her womanly needs. It's a ridiculous scene, but treated with utter reverence.

Ask yourself this: if your partner told you that there was a ten-year old kid pretending to be one of their ex-partners, and they wanted them to stay the night, would you a) laugh in their face and throw the kid out on the street, or b) say yes without hesitation? Us normal people would say a), but guess what level of reality the characters here live on. This includes the parents of Sean, who believe his story and let him hang around Kidman after seemingly debating the plausibility of it for about, oh, two minutes.

The characters just do not ring true in any shape or form. Kidman's character is so stupid and believing of the kid I was expecting a big plot reveal that she's actually mentally ill or has had a previous mental breakdown in the past. But no, she's just stupid. Likewise Joseph, who behaves like no sane boyfriend ever would.

Kidman (in cropped hair bringing to mind Mia Farrow in 'Rosemary's Baby) takes the role very seriously and is effective at first but ends up as ludicrous as the film. Huston is also trying hard, but has his seriousness undermined when he takes his love rival over his knee and begins to spank him. And Bright seems to think the best way to engender tension or fear is to look blank and speak solemnly.

And come the final revelation, you'll be scratching your head much the same way you did at the end of 'The Village'. It's a similar twist in terms of logic, believability, and suspense. It's silly, smack-yourself-over-the-head-stupid and totally at odds with the rest of of the film preening itself as something deep and clever.

If you want your film to be taken seriously how about you don't have an ending that's just utterly stupid and creates more questions than it answers eh? And as an additional bit of fun, try and count the amount of times you can see the boom mic at the top of the screen. I saw it about 7 times.

Glazer has promise as a director but he had better learn how to apply the right tone to the right script. Kidman is a decent actress but she had better learn how to define the difference between a script that's 'clever' and one that's 'crap'. Glazer and company have aimed to make a deep, seriousness film and in one way they've succeeded - it's a deeply serious failure.

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originally posted: 11/09/04 03:43:32
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User Comments

11/01/14 David Hollingsworth provocative and challenging 5 stars
2/11/14 Charles Tatum Unsettling and beautiful to look at. 5 stars
7/06/09 art a TEMPEST IN A TEACUP! 1 stars
6/22/09 Beefsolver A yawning chasm of failure. 5 stars
10/31/07 Abe Craaaaap-o-la!! 1 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Hilariously pretentious.Highbrow aspirations, street gutter results! 1 stars
5/01/07 gg Incredibly beautiful, dreamlike movie. Kidman's greatest performance. 5 stars
11/21/06 Alex Electrifying. Hauntingly beautiful. Nicole Kidman is truly a great actress. I loved movie 5 stars
8/23/06 barb what a total waste of my time! 1 stars
6/27/06 chienne another Kidman ballsup. God she's done some tripe - this is about the best 1 stars
3/09/06 mark this film was the most boring,badly acted,unbelievable pile of drivel i have ever seen. 1 stars
2/17/06 Alice Was ok, had good acting 4 stars
11/06/05 stephanie fuller characters' reactions to the situation were completely unbelievable and unrealistic. 1 stars
7/14/05 Monster W. Kung Got any doubt about Ebert's mental problems? He gave this 3.5 out of 4... 1 stars
7/07/05 Elizabeth Blackey Too slow. I would have said total crap except for Bright's performace - convincing. 2 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands Brilliant: Musical score, opening scene, Kidman's symphony closeup. Lame: Everything else. 4 stars
6/01/05 Michael Boring. 100 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. 1 stars
5/30/05 Ellie Since when is slow a bad thing? Gorgeous - a thinker. 5 stars
5/23/05 jasmine kennedy This movie is for an audience that thinks outside the box otherwise you wont get it. 4 stars
5/21/05 Ed Tuttle Held my attention all the way. Subtle tactics in addressing a touchy and deep subject:death 4 stars
5/19/05 John Bale A finely crafted enigmatic film that keeps you guessing and is beautiful to watch 5 stars
5/02/05 Teri STUPID 1 stars
4/30/05 Helen Bradley Kidman tried but very slow pace, not a thriller, boring 1 stars
4/26/05 Walt Kolander Too many draggy dead spots 2 stars
4/23/05 Jeff Anderson A disappointing film that goes nowhere. Kidman & Bright's brave & terrific acting SAVE IT!! 3 stars
4/10/05 Kristan anderson Very Slow.Story flows poorly and makes no sense. But, interesting. 3 stars
4/05/05 rags rolf junk 1 stars
2/05/05 Sierra Not a fan of Kidman, should not have bothered with this horrid garbage 1 stars
1/12/05 Danielle R. This movie was very good. Really creepy and thought-provoking. Kidman was stellar. 5 stars
1/09/05 this is a terrible ass movie Cameron Bright is a talentless piece of goddamn shit. Fuckin christ..please shoot him 1 stars
11/23/04 Kristina Williams Nicole Kidman is one of my favorites, but this was just bad. 1 stars
11/20/04 Mario Morales Excellent intense film not to be seen at home on DVD; Kidman's eyes are everthing 4 stars
11/16/04 Sophia Pretty Awful movie I must say. And I 'm a huge fan of Nicole Kidman. 1 stars
11/16/04 A F Good opening sequence though. 1 stars
11/15/04 Alex This was a brilliant film, original and moving. 5 stars
11/14/04 Nadia Not bad. . .well except for the ending. 4 stars
11/14/04 Grendel Dreadful, unbelievable nonsense, end titles were very welcome 1 stars
11/13/04 Naka Difficult premise, but someone w/ skill coulda done it. Not these jackasses. 1 stars
11/05/04 Mereyana we were hoodwinked...perported 2 b what it wasn't 2 stars
11/03/04 Stevo I liked the creepiness, but wouldn't recommend it to my Mom 4 stars
11/02/04 Mariah Montgomery Beautiful and effective. 5 stars
10/31/04 MovieMikeKC By far the worst movie I have seen in years. Forced artsy-fartsy crap ! 1 stars
10/23/04 Ray Regular 3 stars
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  29-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2005

  05-Nov-2004 (15)

  28-Apr-2005 (MA)

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