Sundance movie review: 'birth/rebirth' disturbs with undead ethical quandary – UPI News


Jan. 21 (UPI) — birth/rebirth, which premiered Thursday at the Sundance Film Festival, is a horror movie in which the people do scarier things than the creatures. It is effective because the actors are able to convey what drives their conflicted characters.

Celia (Judy Reyes) is a hospital nurse whose 7-year-old daughter, Lila (A.J. Lister) dies while Celia is on a shift. Morgue technician Rose (Marin Ireland) is able to bring Lila back to life with a serum she developed in secret.

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Many horror tales from Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein to the Re-Animator movies have dealt with the ethical and practical issues with reviving the dead. In those stories, reviving the dead is a one and done prospect, but not so in birth/rebirth.

Lila requires continued treatment to keep her alive. The film reveals exactly what unsettling methods Rose uses to formulate her serum.

Even if nothing else happens in birth/rebirth, that seems unsustainable. Is Rose going to keep making serum forever? Perhaps it could be like kidney dialysis Lila has to endure for the rest of her life/re-life.

The details of Rose’s serum make it seem unlikely she could ever mass produce it. If she starts bringing back more people, how many does she have enough serum for?

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Certainly if Rose went public with this discovery, there would be high demand for it. If she starts bringing lots of people back, and they never eventually die, that would become overwhelming very quickly.

birth/rebirth inspires those thought-provoking questions but deals with more immediate concerns. While Celia works with Rose, she has to cover up Lila’s undeath, making excuses for why she hasn’t held a funeral.

Rose has to bend medical ethics further and further to continue maintaining Lila. Celia is conflicted about that, but ultimately she’s going to choose her daughter over ethics.

Much of the film unfolds as both Celia and Rose stand over Lila as a patient in bed, hooked up to monitors. The circumstances of Lila’s condition make it creepier than an average episode of ER.

Ireland is great as the obsessed scientist whose drive makes her antisocial. Celia just needs Rose around because because she’s the only one who discovered and can execute this amazing procedure.

Reyes has more of the straight-man role as the grieving mother willing to do anything to save her daughter. Reyes effectively shows how Celia is pushed morally and has to reconcile herself with the unthinkable extremes to which Rose makes her go.

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Even though Lila is back, there is still a body count to birth/rebirth. Rose’s serum ultimately requires a trade-off anyway, so birth/rebirth becomes a disturbing tale of how science chooses who lives and who dies.

Shudder will release birth/rebirth following the Sundance Film Festival.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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Jan. 21 (UPI) — birth/rebirth, which premiered Thursday at the Sundance Film Festival, is a horror movie in which the people do scarier things than the creatures. It is effective because the actors are able to convey what drives their conflicted characters.
Celia (Judy Reyes) is a hospital nurse whose 7-year-old daughter, Lila (A.J. Lister) dies while Celia is on a shift. Morgue technician Rose (Marin Ireland) is able to bring Lila back to life with a serum she developed in secret.

Advertisement

Many horror tales from Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein to the Re-Animator movies have dealt with the ethical and practical issues with reviving the dead. In those stories, reviving the dead is a one and done prospect, but not so in birth/rebirth.
Lila requires continued treatment to keep her alive. The film reveals exactly what unsettling methods Rose uses to formulate her serum.
Even if nothing else happens in birth/rebirth, that seems unsustainable. Is Rose going to keep making serum forever? Perhaps it could be like kidney dialysis Lila has to endure for the rest of her life/re-life.
The details of Rose’s serum make it seem unlikely she could ever mass produce it. If she starts bringing back more people, how many does she have enough serum for?

Advertisement

Certainly if Rose went public with this discovery, there would be high demand for it. If she starts bringing lots of people back, and they never eventually die, that would become overwhelming very quickly.
birth/rebirth inspires those thought-provoking questions but deals with more immediate concerns. While Celia works with Rose, she has to cover up Lila’s undeath, making excuses for why she hasn’t held a funeral.
Rose has to bend medical ethics further and further to continue maintaining Lila. Celia is conflicted about that, but ultimately she’s going to choose her daughter over ethics.
Much of the film unfolds as both Celia and Rose stand over Lila as a patient in bed, hooked up to monitors. The circumstances of Lila’s condition make it creepier than an average episode of ER.
Ireland is great as the obsessed scientist whose drive makes her antisocial. Celia just needs Rose around because because she’s the only one who discovered and can execute this amazing procedure.
Reyes has more of the straight-man role as the grieving mother willing to do anything to save her daughter. Reyes effectively shows how Celia is pushed morally and has to reconcile herself with the unthinkable extremes to which Rose makes her go.

Advertisement

Even though Lila is back, there is still a body count to birth/rebirth. Rose’s serum ultimately requires a trade-off anyway, so birth/rebirth becomes a disturbing tale of how science chooses who lives and who dies.
Shudder will release birth/rebirth following the Sundance Film Festival.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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