I’m a big Nicole Kidman fan. I was looking through her filmography recently and saw this 2004 film that I’d never seen. The plot for Birth is a very intriguing one. The whole thing centers around a widowed woman Anna (Kidman) who is approached by a young boy who claims to be her dead husband Sean. Over time, as she talks with him, she starts to believe that he really is who he says he is. The big question is: is he really her reincarnated dead husband?
I was really interested to see what this film would do with its enticing premise, to see what the ultimate result was going to be. I’m sad to say that the handling of the actual premise goes wrong in the third act. Until then, I was tracking with it, mainly because of Nicole Kidman’s mesmerizing performance. But unfortunately, the whole thing kind of runs out of steam, I felt like it threw its hands up and said that’s it. Now there are some really good things here that work, I just wish the narrative would’ve been handled better. Nicole Kidman is undoubtedly the best thing about the entire film, she gives an intense, sobering performance. She is also fairly relatable, I mean how would you react if your dead spouse appears to have come back as a kid?
Her character is clearly not over her deceased husband, which is why she is hit so hard when this boy says he is Sean. Kidman being the talented actress she is, is able to portray the grief and confusion perfectly. The other thing here that I absolutely loved was Anne Heche. Heche plays a character that ends up being pivotal to the plot, and is required to be in some intense scenes, which she nails. I also like the way the film is able to utilize her character in a way that has impact. Lauren Bacall is nice as Annas mother, it’s always great to see a classic actress like herself on the big screen.
The story is interesting in certain ways too, I’d say the aspect that has the largest impact are the scenes between Anna and Sean. There’s a scene where they bath together (non sexual) and the ways they focus on each other is powerful, you almost don’t even words. There’s another scene between them in the third act that ends up being the best scene in the whole film, I won’t reveal what happens because it would be a major spoiler.
It’s going to be kind of tough to talk about what doesn’t work in this film without revealing major spoilers, but I’ll try. So the first and second act, while well acted, feel kind of off and very odd. When certain things get revealed in the third act, on one hand it’s interesting but then on the other it makes the first and second act feel empty. I usually love a plot twist, but here it just throws everything off in my opinion. I find the idea of the direction they end up going in interesting in theory but it seems too absurd and unexplainable to me.
Ultimately, this is film laser focused on grief, which is fine and is a very powerful thing to focus on, but the way they shift gears feels forced. When I say forced, I mean that it seems like they wanted a specific end goal and they needed to figure out a way to get there, so they just wrote in this plot twist that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
While I really admire what Birth was trying to do, it just goes about it in some ways that don’t deliver the proper impact. It’s really a shame because Kidman’s lead performance is so incredibly mesmerizing and she handles some pretty intense scenes like the pro she is. And the other positive aspects I mentioned were admirable as well, I just wish they’d handled the details of the plot with a tighter grip. I’d say it’s worth one watch simply for Kidman’s performance, but just expect it to go off the rails towards the end.