"Birth" is a film that asks the question: Why would the great Jean-Claude Carriere bother to write a script as stupid as this? For the man who worked with Luis Bunuel on some of the greatest films ever made, plus the screenplay of "Cyrano de Bergerac" for Jean-Paul Rappeneau, plus "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," for Philip Kaufman, plus - well, you get the idea - "Birth" is only an abomination. And that Jonathan Glazer, who directed the marvelous "Sexy Beast" a couple of years ago, would invest time and energy into this film, can mean only one thing: A big paycheck.
Even for a ghost story, the premise of "Birth" is not sustainable: Sean, a husband to Nicole Kidman's Anna, has a heart attack and dies while jogging in Central Park. Ten years later, a ten-year-old boy (Cameron Bright), also named Sean, shows up at Anna's mother's apartment on Fifth Avenue on the night of her engagement party to Joseph (Danny Huston), and says he's the reincarnation of Sean. "Don't marry Joseph," he says, and adds a couple of little tidbits about his previous life with Anna. Young Mr. Bright tries for the same sad look as Haley Joel Osment featured in "The Sixth Sense," but his face is so uninteresting and his voice so dull, all we can think is that if this is for real, Anna is well rid of the original Sean. Not that Joseph, with his stone face, is any bargain either. In fact everybody in this film, including Lauren Bacall as Anna's mother and Anne Heche as a friend, seem to have been botoxed as far as expressions go.
So what to do with young Sean? How about an investigation into how he got to Anna? Umm, well, that might bring the film to an early end. I'm not good at investigations, but I can think of about a dozen ways to test him on it that no one in the film seems able to do. Not only that, Anna actually falls in love with Sean, tells him they'll run away and wait till he's 21 so she can marry him again. Which reminds me: how did someone as talented as Kidman agree to play so stupid? I guess it's just one of those questions that only a large paycheck can answer.
Director Glazer and his cinematographer Harris Savides, no doubt looking for a way to stretch the film to feature length, have relied on endless closeups of Kidman looking a)worried; b)thoughtful; c)frightened. She tries her best to give us at least two of them in each shot, but even the great Kidman is defeated by the lack of context here. While she's doing that, we in the audience have a chance to guess what the reveal is going to be. And when it comes it's so contrived as to be pointless. In fact, we can guess almost from the beginning the who; we just don't know why. Having to wait ninety minutes just to find out is more punishment than I for one am willing to take.