Director Jonathan Glazer poses an interesting question in his second movie “Birth”: What exactly happens when we die? Anna, played by Nicole Kidman, loses her husband in a jogging accident under mysterious circumstances. Flash forward 10 years, when Anna is months away from marrying her new fiancé, Joseph (Danny Huston). At a birthday party for her mother Eleanor, played by a tough Lauren Bacall, a young boy (Cameron Bright) sneaks into the apartment and announces that he is, in fact, the reincarnation of her deceased husband, Sean.
Naturally this announcement throws the entire family in turmoil, with Anna questioning who this young stranger actually is. Anna goes through a period of deep reflection and anguish, probably best shown by her reaction in a scene at the opera. A slow close-up of Kidman’s face reveals the turmoil and anguish present in her soul as the orchestra swells in the background.
The film does have a bizarre premise that lends itself to a number of different odd situations. The film’s most controversial scene is no doubt the “bathtub scene,” which has already bathed the film in controversy. The scene isn’t sexual or pedophiliac; rather, it’s simply an exploratory gesture made by the young Sean to gain perspective. When Kidman asks, “What are you doing?” Sean responds, “I want to look at my wife,” in both a heartwarming and creepy moment.
The cinematography of the movie has a feel all its own. Glazer films with a sort of soft lens, giving the film a fuzzy and warm look to it. The acting in the film is largely hit or miss. Kidman does an excellent job in conveying a wife who, after 10 years, is still grieving over her husband’s death. Huston, who plays confounded current fiancé Joseph, brings anguish to the role in wondering what exactly his future bride sees in a 10-year-old boy. However, Bright’s performance as the young Sean is not nearly as effective. He seems far too serious, almost like he’s channeling Haley Joel Osment from “The Sixth Sense,” and it falls flat. No matter what controversy the film is steeped in, it does raise one crucial point: Love and longing seem to live on far longer than the human body.