I Origins

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I Origins
I Origins poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Cahill
Produced byMike Cahill
Hunter Gray
Alex Orlovsky
Written byMike Cahill
Music byWill Bates
Phil Mossman
CinematographyMarkus Forderer
Edited byMike Cahill
  • Verisimilitude
  • WeWork Studios
  • Bersin Pictures
  • Penny Jane Films
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • January 18, 2014 (2014-01-18) (Sundance)
  • July 18, 2014 (2014-07-18) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million
Box office$475,591[2]

I Origins is a 2014 American science fiction romantic drama film written and directed by Mike Cahill. The independent production premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014. It is distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, and opened in limited release on July 18, 2014. It won the Best Feature Length Film Award at the Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya on October 11, 2014.[3]


A Ph.D. student, Ian Gray, is researching the evolution of human eyes with Karen, his first-year lab assistant, and Kenny. He has a particular hostility to superstition, religion and "intelligent design", which he hopes to discredit by filling in the steps of the evolution of the eye. At a Halloween party he has an encounter with Sofi, who is wearing a black face mask, where only her magnetic hazel-speckled, ash-blue eyes are visible. Fascinated, he photographs her eyes and then up at the warehouse party she later leads him into the washroom to have sex. However, soon after, she abruptly leaves without saying goodbye.

Ian cannot stop thinking about her. One day, synchronicities around the number eleven, amongst others, seem to mysteriously guide him to a billboard displaying what he recognizes to be Sofi's eyes. Eventually he sees her on a train and approaches her, letting her listen to the music on his earphones. They begin a relationship, although his rationalism often clashes with her fey spirituality. One day they spontaneously agree to marry. They are told they need to wait a day for a license, and as they disappointedly walk out of the registry office, Ian gets a call from Karen at the lab. There has been an exciting breakthrough in their research. She has found a blind worm—Eisenia fetida—with the DNA necessary to develop an eye, just what they had been looking for. Ian takes Sofi to the lab with him, though she is less pleased that he is willing to do so on their supposed "wedding day". He attempts to appease her by exchanging their wedding rings, to which she is reluctant as its possibly bad luck. He states he does not believe in such things, then places her ring on her finger anyway, whispering that he has loved her forever.

Back at the lab, Sofi is upset by the research they are doing and an uncomfortable Karen leaves. After a short argument, Sofi kisses Ian and Ian knocks over a bottle of formaldehyde, accidentally splashing his eyes. They call Karen, who helps him to the eyewash station and bandages his eyes, and Sofi takes him home. On the way up, the elevator in Sofi's apartment building stops between floors. Ian tries to hoist Sofi out through the prized-open doors, but she refuses. Frustrated by her childish fears, he rips off his bandages and attempts to climb out himself. As he is pulling Sofi through, the elevator suddenly starts to move again. With blurry eyes, Ian thinks he had pulled her out in time, but it was too late - Sofi's bottom half being chopped off, she dies instantly in his arms. Ian goes into a deep depression, and Karen continues their research. One night, Karen brings him a meal at his home. He begins to cry, and she comforts him. They begin to kiss.

The film flashes forward seven years. Ian has written a book on the evolution of the eye that he claims further debunks creationism. Ian and Karen are now married, and Karen is pregnant. One evening, Karen finds Ian viewing videos of Sofi on his computer. When she questions him, he says that he was never going to stay with Sofi as she was too childish in her ways, but he never got the closure he needed because of her sudden death. When their baby is born, the hospital takes an iris scan of baby Tobias' eyes. The results are entered in the database and the program identifies the baby as a certain Paul Edgar Dairy. The nurse re-enters the results, thinking it is a glitch, and the problem disappears.

A few months later, a Dr. Simmons calls, claiming that a test of the baby's urine may indicate an elevated risk of autism and recommending a further test, involving seemingly random photographs. But Ian and Karen become suspicious during this unconventional test and decide to investigate Doctor Simmons. Ian tracks some pictures from this test to Idaho where he stumbles on the family of Paul Edgar Dairy, who apparently died just before their baby was conceived.

The private company of Ian's former research partner, Kenny, is the creator of the iris scan database used to store Tobias' scan, and Kenny reveals that Dr. Simmons is in fact one of only five people with full access to the database. As a test, he helps Ian and Karen run some photos of deceased family members, plus various other people's eyes through the database to see if there are any other recent matches. They get a hit for Sofi, whose iris scan matches one made in India just three months prior, years after Sofi's death.

Ian goes to India to find the subject of this scan. There he finds Priya, the head of the community center where the iris scan was made. Priya recognizes Sofi's eyes as those of a girl she knows, named Salomina, and agrees to help. Ian and Priya begin searching for Salomina, who is an orphan and seems to have disappeared into the crowds of the city. Ian tries putting up a billboard showing Sofi's eyes and offering a cash reward. He is besieged with calls, but none are credible. Weeks later he comes across a little girl staring at the billboard. It is Salomina. He takes her back to his hotel and contacts Karen over Skype. The two of them conduct a simple test designed to reveal if Salomina might be somehow linked with Sofi's memories. At first Salomina is uncannily accurate, but in the end her results are within the probable range of random chance. Karen asks him how he feels about this and he says he feels rather foolish. Feeling somewhat disheartened, Ian then leaves the hotel room with Salomina to take her to Priya but when they reach the elevator, the moment the doors open Salomina panics and throws herself into his arms, too frightened to enter. Staring into each other's eyes with a certain recognition, they then cling to each other, tears streaming down both their faces. He picks her up and takes her down the stairs instead, with Salomina tightly gripping his neck, till they walk from the dark interior and step out into the light. Each now has the closure they needed.

A post-credits scene shows Dr. Simmons scanning the irises of famous and infamous deceased figures to compare with the iris scan database, apparently finding many such matches.



I Origins was the second feature film by writer-director Mike Cahill after his earlier independent science fiction-drama, Another Earth (2011), also with actress Brit Marling. Cahill sold the film rights to Another Earth to Fox Searchlight Pictures at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. At that time he also sold a screenplay to what would be his next feature film titled I. Though during the development of I, after failing to "crack" some aspects of the story, Cahill instead decided to make an origin story for the film, in which he had a "rich back story for".[4]

Although Fox Searchlight owned the rights to any prequels or sequels to the I script, Cahill decided to make I Origins independently. He intended to sell the film at the Sundance Film Festival, like he did for Another Earth. Fox Searchlight agreed and the film was produced by Verisimilitude and WeWork Studios in association with Bersin Pictures and Penny Jane Films. After the premiere of I Origins at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Fox Searchlight ended up buying the rights to the film.[4]


I Origins premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014. After its premiere, Fox Searchlight Pictures bought rights to worldwide distribution of the film.[5] The film won the festival's Alfred P. Sloan Prize, which recognizes films that depict science and technology. The win was Cahill's second; his film Another Earth also won the prize in 2011.[6] I Origins also screened at the Brooklyn-based BAMcinemaFest and at the Nantucket Film Festival, both in late June 2014.[7][8]

I Origins began its limited theatrical release on July 18, 2014 in just four theaters.[9] The following week, it expanded to 76 theaters.[10]


I Origins received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 53%, based on 100 reviews, with a weighted average score of 6/10. The site's consensus states: "Writer-director Mike Cahill remains an intriguingly ambitious talent, but with the uneven sci-fi drama I Origins, his reach exceeds his grasp".[11] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12] Jordan Zakarin, of entertainment and media news website TheWrap, said that "The movie starts as a love story and then morphs into a thriller, propelled always by the push and pull of faith and logic, with tragedy shifting world views over time". He continued, saying that "The message is both micro and macro, aimed at the renewed war in the United States over issues like science education and contraception, as well as Cahill's way of working out his own mixed emotions".[13]


I Origins was developed as a prequel of I, a screenplay which Cahill sold to Fox Searchlight Pictures in 2011.[13] Cahill intended for I to take place twenty years after the event of I Origins, after the repercussions of Dr. Ian Gray’s discoveries take hold, as teased in the post-credits of the film.[14]

During press interviews for the film, Cahill spoke of plans to go ahead with a sequel to I Origins, saying "There's a sequel in the works. It's not scripted. We're not in production yet, but we set up at Fox Searchlight".[15]

See also[edit]

Preceded by
Computer Chess
Alfred P. Sloan Prize Winner
Succeeded by
The Stanford Prison Experiment


  1. ^ "I ORIGINS (15)". 20th Century Fox. British Board of Film Classification. August 15, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  2. ^ "I Origins (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  3. ^ "'I Origins', 'The Babadook' and 'Cub' win at a Sitges Film Festival that's been more fantastic than ever". sitgesfilmfestival.com. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Sciretta, Peter (July 18, 2014). "'I Origins' Is a Prequel to a Screenplay Sold to Fox Searchlight in 2011". /Film. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  5. ^ Stewart, Andrew (January 20, 2014). "Sundance: Fox Searchlight Acquiring Mike Cahill's Sci-fi Mystery 'I Origins'". Variety.
  6. ^ Stewart, Andrew (January 21, 2014). "Sundance: Mike Cahill Awarded Alfred P. Sloan Prize for 'I Origins'". Variety. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  7. ^ O'Falt, Chris (May 6, 2014). "How Brooklyn's BAMcinemaFest Became an Important Stop on the Festival Circuit". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Lindsay, Taylor (April 22, 2014). "Nantucket Film Festival Announces Lineup, Including 'Skeleton Twins,' 'I Origins,' and Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood'". Indiewire. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  9. ^ Cook, Cameron (April 10, 2014). "Exclusive: See the trailer for I Origins on Apple.com". foxsearchlight.com. Fox Searchlight Pictures. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  10. ^ "Theater Counts > 2014 > Week 30". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  11. ^ "I Origins". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
  12. ^ "I Origins Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Michael Pitt-Brit Marling Film 'I Origins' Is Actually a Prequel to a Sequel That Doesn't Exist Yet". TheWrap. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  14. ^ "'I Origins' Helmer Mike Cahill Talks Science and Sequels as Sci-fi Pic Prepares to Open Karlovy Vary". Variety. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  15. ^ "I Origins Went To Insane Lengths To Get Its Science Right". io9.com. Retrieved January 6, 2015.

External links[edit]