This film looks to the old idea of the eyes being the windows to the soul, something which pre-scores evolution. Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt, Seven Psychopaths, 2012) is a post-doctorate researcher fascinated with the human eye. He is enthralled by eyes both from the perspective of the aesthetic ( he has a collection of hundreds of photographs he has taken of people’s faces and particularly their eyes) and their evolutionary importance; something which he is convinced science has over-looked. In to this mix comes a young woman who he meets at a party (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Juliette, Juliette, 2013) who he becomes smitten with. Not knowing who she is, he tries to find her, only to “discover her” from a series of numbers as he bought a lottery ticket at 11.11 on the 11th on a road where the number 11 bus passes etc. He follows the clues and eventually meets her.
In parallel to this he also acquires a new first year lab research student, who he initially dismisses as another air-head whose work he will pass if she just stays away from the lab, however it soon becomes apparent that she does actually know something about the work he is doing. From here on Ian’s life seems to move in Parallel, just as him home life is progressing so too are his professional efforts. The team are looking a genetic marker that will change the way we look at evolution, however it is a long-shot and likely to take years. Just as his career is looking to the long view, his relationship is proceeding quickly.
Then one fateful day, news comes through that they have found a candidate animal which has the gene but no eyes – exactly what is needed. Now they should be able to genetically build an eye in to this animal, a genetically perfect one. His joy here is quickly removed as Sophie is killed in an accident. Here is perhaps the weakest moment for in the midst of his grief he turns to his assistant and they begin a relationship which immediately jumps 7 years to where there are married and about to have their first child. There was perhaps just a little too much speed there.
Married and now with a young son, all is good until one day they get a call asking them to attend a clinic with their son as he might be showing indicators of autism. They bring the child to be tested only to realise that the test is not for autism but some kind of memory test. Memory of a past life. The researcher believes the child may have the memories of somebody who died previously. The trouble is, this is not a million miles from Ian’s own research. This gets him asking questions.
Although always seeing himself as a rational scientist, his objective belief system starts to take a beating. Using his knowledge of the human eyes together with his database access, they quickly see a pattern emerging. Something that should not have happened. Different people around the world, such as his dead former girl-friend, Sofi share certain characteristics, but none of these people are ever alive at the same time.
In many ways this film is like “Upstream Color” (Shane Carruth, 2013) both movies are for us to work at. We are brought along but not given too much help. In ?Upstream Color we are given almost no help, here there is enough to keep us from having to struggle too much, while at the same time have us wanting more.
This is a smartly directly movie, which does not strain itself beyond its capabilities, it is very watchable and a lot less taxing than Upstream Color.