Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
The premise of BIRTHMARKED is fascinating. Married couple, Ben (Matthew Goode) and Catherine (Toni Collette) are both university professors and scientists who want to explore the concept of Nature versus Nurture. With the financial support of a rich Businessman, the lifelong experiment begins. Alongside Ben and Catherine’s biological son Luke (Jordan Poole), they adopt Maya (Megan O’Kelly) and Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and raise them against their genetic predispositions. Luke will be raised to be an Artist despite his parents science-fueled DNA, Maya will be geared towards genius levels to combat her birth parents lack of intelligence and Maurice will become a Pacifist versus his parents’ violent proclivities. All five live in a secluded country home alongside live-in Child Psychologist Samsonov (Andreas Apergis) who documents the procedures and results. After 11 years, the Financier returns to see that the results were not as forthcoming as he had hoped and, if Ben and Catherine do not produce significant progress in this experiment, they will be forced to return all the funding.
There is some comedic gold mined in BIRTHMARKED. One particular scene where the adults sit down to watch a play written and performed by their children only to realize the situations and dialogues were mined from the Penthouse Magazine and the letters they publish.
Dramatic conflicts also abound with what looks like the dissolution of a marriage. Despite outstanding performances by the three young Actors and the stunning Cinematography, the Movie relies on the natural strengths and charisma of the two leads. I have been a huge fan of Matthew Goode after seeing him debut in 2003’s South from Granada and I still believe that Toni Collette’s work in Muriel’s Wedding is one of Cinema’s best performances. They gamely and professionally bring credibility to their characters, but, due to the fact that Ben and Catherine are just not likeable, their efforts are in vain.
Writer Marc Tulin and Director Emanuel Hoss-Demarais have taken a promising idea and ran with it haphazardly. The Comedy is hit-and-miss and the Drama is uninvolving. The very talented Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs. Tridek criminally is underutilized and whereas I enjoyed and was surprised by the twist near the end of the Movie, I really wanted to enjoy BIRTHMARKED as a whole.
eOne Films release BIRTHMARKED Friday, May 25, 2018.