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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Birth

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: October 2004
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Drama

*Also starring: Danny Huston, Anne Heche, Lauren Bacall, Arliss Howard, Peter Stormare, Ted Levine, Cara Seymour, Alison Elliott, Zoe Caldwell, Milo Addica, Novella Nelson

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

While some in the audience might suggest that this "Birth" should be aborted, the film is not at all bad just unbelievable with plot holes galore, featuring upper-class people who would not think of challenging a ten-year-old's version of the truth by pumping him with some real questions. Who is this ten-year-old? His real name is Sean (Cameron Bright) but there's more to that. He claims that he is the husband (also named Sean) of a woman, Anna (Nicole Kidman) who appears to be now to be in her late thirties. Though most ten-year-olds who look at thirty-seven year olds might be think they're doing a big favor to give the time of day to "old women," this kid is different. He's in love with Anna, though not in the way that a child in elementary school may form an alliance with his favorite teacher. Though he never mentions the term "reincarnation," the way he answers questions that only Anna's husband dead for ten years would know. Director Jonathan Glazer is patient. He spends considerable time allowing us in the audience to gaze upon what he must consider key scenes. For example in the very beginning we see the back of a man who is jogging in Central Park, a jog that proceeds in real time for a couple of minutes until he collapses and dies at which point Glazer takes us ahead by ten years to show us a woman who is still grieving for her husband.

Would you marry a woman in this situation? Good luck to you, because there will be three persons in the bed for a long time. This doesn't bother Joseph (Danny Huston), who is either so in love with Anna that he's willing to put up not only with her grieving but with her declaration that she is now in love with a ten-year-old. Maybe it's the money Anna inherited, perhaps through her mother, Eleanor (Lauren Bacall), which enables her to live with mom in a duplex that appears to be on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park, the same sort of pad where Jackie Kennedy Onassis during her final years. When little Sean professes his love for a woman twenty-seven years his senior, well, OK, kids say the darndest things. But would a member of the social register, obviously intelligent and with far more experience with the world, be so much taken in by the boy's story that in front of her fianc‚ she insists that she loves Sean and then, even takes a bath with him?

"Birth," then, is a movie that does not set the proper tone. If this were a supernatural thriller or mystery, we can accept reincarnation. As a story about normal, overly rich New Yorkers, the plot lacks credibility. There are some fine supporting roles, including one by Arliss Howard as Bob, a doctor who tries to get to the bottom of the mystery but is unable to; by Lauren Bacall, who is the one person with a sense of wit and irony, who says while dishing out a piece of cake for the lad, "Are you enjoying your cake, Mr. Reincarnation?"; and by Anne Heche as one of Anna's friends, a woman who toward the conclusion of the story thinks she knows whether little Sean is a fake or not. On the whole, "Birth," despite the absurdity of a movie that is not offered to us as a spooky reincarnation drama, is entertaining enough despite some unintentional laughs we'll deliver at these denizens of Central Park.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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