Birth Retro Talk; Grade: B-
Welcome to another edition of Retro Talk! I do apologize that I haven’t posted a new one the last two weeks. The first week needed a week off to focus on the SXSW Amazon Prime festival, the other week was extremely busy... That second week off was BRUTAL! Today we’ll be discussing Jonathan Glazer’s sophomore film Birth!
Birth was released around October 2004. The film went on to be received twenty-three million at the box office, while scoring a Golden Globe nomination for Nicole Kidman’s role in the film. As far as reception it wasn’t received well from critics and audience. Roger Ebert however gave the film a three and a half star rating out of four. Since it’s release it has aged well with film buffs, as it can be shown at an average rating of 3.5 stars out of five on Letterboxd. How do I feel about Birth?! Let’s discuss the film.
Birth tells a story about a woman named Anna (Nicole Kidman) who’s husband collapses and dies while jogging on a cold day. It took Anna a decade for her to move on from her husband, as she plans to marry a wealthy man Joseph (Danny Huston). While celebrating a family members birthday, we notice a young boy came uninvited. Anna asked the young boy who he is and why has he come to this gathering, where he knows nobody. The young boy calls himself Sean (Cameron Bright) as he claims he is Anna’s husband. Anna becomes completely spooked, as Sean persuades Anna that he is her dead husband, only reborn in another person’s body. As Sean proves to Anna with personal information only Sean would know, Anna slowly convinces herself that her dead husband has come back to life, leaving her in a pickle with her fiancé. What’s funny about Birth is that once I’m introduced to young Sean, I instantly remember my nine year old self wanting to watch this film... It’s abnormal to have a nine year old wanting to watch this dramatic thriller, but I was ahead of my time when it became to films.
Birth is a nice visual looking film, followed by a fantastic score. When you can elevate a simple three minute jogging sequence on music alone, you have made something extremely special. The Score is really one of the main highlights of this entire film, it really elevates it to it’s potential in creating a film worth remembering. The cast all in all is solid as a whole, though the concept is very strange, each and every cast member has bought into Glazer’s vision. Nicole Kidman playing the lead Anna was pretty good, rightfully earning that Golden Globe nomination. I found the character Anna to be extremely well written, while our eyes are on this young boy whom claims to be Anna’s dead husband, it’s worth noting this film is more so on Anna’s inability to have completely moved on from Sean. I’ll explain more later, but it’s what really makes Birth a film worth discussing in a deeper sense. Cameron Bright playing Sean was honestly great, for a child actor to take on a role like this could extremely struggle immensely with a role like this. Cameron keeps his poise and composure throughout this performance, making the audience believe like Anna that he is her dead husband, a very underrated child performance.
After seeing Birth, I can understand where this film wasn’t received well back when it was release. I do want to state a major flaw I have and that’s Anna’s fiancé allowing Sean to stay in the house for the night. You can honestly tell that Anna herself has become so assume with this little boy, convinced that he could possibly be her dead husband. As one whom is bound to marry Anna in May, I have no idea why he felt the need to allow this little boy in their home. What is there to gain from this? Absolutely nothing, in fact you can potentially cost your marriage by this young boy invading your home. Which later on in the film Joseph shows his true colors, making him an unreliable husband for Anna’s future kids when she does choose to have them.
Here’s what makes or breaks Birth for the viewer, which is honestly why this film is received poorly: The Twist. The twist is one that can make any viewer completely conflicted with the film. I found the twist very unexpected, as it shows quite a few plot holes. Sean’s knowledge of certain people in Anna’s life doesn’t add up. However despite my differences with the twist, I can’t help to think Birth is more than the concept itself. I believe this story is more on Anna and her inability to ever move on from her husband, as she would do anything to have him back in his arms. Anna’s marriage was much deeper than wealth and good looks, as Anna fell for Sean for his pure spirit. As it’s shown in the end, Anna and her husband would share love letters with each other. While in Anna’s up and coming marriage, Anna is marrying Joseph for the wrong reasons. Anna is marrying Joseph simply to get it over with, as it’s shown Joseph has been bothering her year in and year out. It simplifies just how it is when you lost a loved one: Every other relationship moving forward is a chore.
Now that Sean is supposedly back in Anna’s life, she now seems to be having second thoughts upon her next marriage. Anna has plans of running away with Sean, grooming him for the next eleven years when he is twenty-one to continue their marriage where it started... It’s extremely weird. But the idea of Sean brings Anna back home, where other men for the last decade can never do for her, including Joesph. There is nothing like your first love, as Anna would be willing to spend the next eleven years taking care of Sean, to where they can have a life together. The film speaks volumes as if the one you loved the most were to ever be reappear in another body, would you still go after them?! It’s such a very strange concept in a deeper sense, however it’s one that is fascinating to say the least. The final shot of the film is very unclear of where Anna stands in her current life. Though we see her in a wedding gown ready to marry Joseph, we also see her crying on the beach away from the whole ceremony. In my theory Anna thought she could carry herself over the thought of Sean once and for all, due to when the twist has been revealed to Anna. However on her wedding day she realizes she can not go through with it, due to the fact she’ll never love a man the way she loves Sean.
Birth is a film in which I have my differences with, but can’t help it being a fascinating story that hits on a deeper level than what is on paper. I prefer Under the Skin over this film, however Birth is a film worth exploring in a deeper scale, as it elevates it’s self higher than the strange concept presented for themselves. Overall, Birth is solid film that has aged well from it’s release. I recommend checking this one out, it’s definitely not for everybody, but it’s a film worth seeking out to. -Mitch Smietana