The ubiquitous Nicole Kidman delivers yet another fine performance in Jonathan Glazer’s film Birth, but like her previous outing The Interpreter, the feature itself fails to deliver.
Birth starts out with an intriguing premise, and rather than go in a traditional thriller ‘Sixth Sense’ direction, all the characters speak bluntly rather than skirting around the (rather extraordinary) issues. There’s no overwhelming sense of otherworldliness here, but rather a subtle foreboding. This is a dark, brooding film, and certainly a case of style over substance.
At times this works wonderfully. There are a couple of hauntingly unique moments, and the extended final shot is nothing short of brilliant. The score is also fantastic, at no time conforming to the typical dramatic structure we associate with ‘Hollywood’ films.
One problem with Birth is that the bulk of the emotional turmoil happened before the film is set – we’re here to watch the cleaning of the debris rather than seeing the blitzkrieg itself. It’s a film about the past, and whilst I’m not asking for some tacky flashbacks (I did appreciate never seeing Anna’s first husband) there simply weren’t enough contemporary narrative threads.
There’s also a disturbing amount of exposition we’re already wise to. Watching Anna explain to her ex-sister-in-law stuff we already know is nothing if not tedious – and serves to simply extend the running time before we reach the explanation we’re dying to witness.
Nicole is great, and thankfully has a bit more meat on her than she did in The Interpreter. Cameron Bright is wonderfully eerie in a very M. Night Shyamalan way, and Anne Heche in particular comes out of nowhere to deliver a fantastic performance. I’m not entirely sure why Peter Stormare was in attendance here – his role seemed fairly innocuous, particular compared to his character work in more mainstream films such as Minority Report and Constantine.
Whilst certainly more focussed than Glazer’s previous film Sexy Beast – a mostly hit and miss affair – Birth may initially capture one’s attention but certainly doesn’t maintain it. The intriguing premise isn’t supported by a strong conclusion, and to a certain degree falls in a heap towards the end.Rating: