By: Nick van Dinther
Birthmarked isn’t a bad movie, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.
In an attempt to finally answer the “nature vs. nurture” debate, scientists Ben (Matthew Goode) and Catherine (Toni Collette) decide to raise their biological son and two adopted children contrary to the genes they’ve been given. Their adopted daughter – born to “nitwits” – is brought up to be an intellectual, their adopted son who comes from a very violent family is raised as a pacifist, and their biological son is developed into an artist. The results test not only the children, but their parents as well.
Toni Collette and Matthew Goode carry Birthmarked without overshadowing the kids. However, even though the adults receive the most screen time, the young actors are the heart of this movie. Jordan Poole, Anton Gillis-Adelman and Megan O’Kelly band together and thrive on their individuality to make their roles work. We’re just as invested in the children’s chemistry as we are during their solo scenes and when they’re interacting with their parents. Everyone seems to be in their respective element, except for Andreas Apergis (Brick Mansions). His character, Samsonov, seems to belong in another movie.
Then again, Birthmarked is very conflicted with itself. Although the premise is interesting, the story relies too much on subtlety. Director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais, who has clearly been inspired by the work of Wes Anderson, should’ve embraced the natural and eclectic quirkiness of his sophomore feature. Not only would Samsonov have found his fit, but Birthmarked would’ve been more unique.
The film movie goers will watch is fine – it’s actually quite sweet. But, Birthmarked too often skims the surface on its innovative story.
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Nick van Dinther: @NickVanDinther