Birth [2004]

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance
As directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) and dimly lit by cinematographer Harris Savides, Birth is a melancholy chamber piece, its pensive mood sustained by nearly sub-sonic nuances in a fine, thematically developed score by Alexandre Desplat. All of these fine qualities are well-matched by the somber performance of Nicole Kidman, playing a still-grieving widow of 10 years, about to remarry when a 10-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) arrives to announce that he is her dead husband, reincarnated and full of convincing answers to personal marital questions. Rather than go for Sixth Sense-like chills and thrills, Glazer approaches Birth as a conundrum with no clear-cut solution, and his directorial style is so subdued, so deliberately understated, that most of the story's dramatic impact is sacrificed to oppressively dour atmosphere. If it doesn't lull you to sleep, Birth might hold your attention as a strange, subtle thriller in miniature scale. With its delicate, mature approach to the processes of grieving and recovery, however, Birth rewards attentive viewers attuned to the film's ultra-low-key wavelength, and it's guaranteed to provoke interesting post-movie discussions. Lauren Bacall, Danny Huston, Anne Heche, and Arliss Howard lead an esteemed supporting cast. --Jeff Shannon

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