BIRTHMARKED is a Canadian/Irish comedy with a good premise but unfortunately falls flat due its script and lack of direction.
The film begins in 1977. Two respected scientists, Ben Morin (Matthew Goode) and his wife Catherine (Toni Collette) quit their jobs at the university to conduct an experiment they think will revolutionize our understanding of human identity, after they are inspired by a speech on scientists making a difference in human beings. The project aims to raise three children contrarily to their genetic predispositions to prove the ultimate power of nurture over nature. They want to prove that everyone has the same potential to become anything. Maya, a newborn girl adopted from two feebleminded parents, is raised to be smart, while Maurice, a newborn boy adopted from two anger-prone parents, is raised to be a pacifist. Finally, their own biological son Luke, who comes from a long lineage of scientific brains, is raised to become a revered artist. The film’s message is the importance of family above all. The experiment will reveal little scientific truth, leading Ben and Catherine to discover the true value of family.
BIRTHMARKED’s script by Marc Tulin is the sloppiest script this year for a variety of reasons, a few of the more noticeable ones mentioned below.
The film begins in a 1978 setting. For one, the script never ever mentions where it is set. Being an Irish/Canadian co-production, one can imagine the reason the filmmakers the setting ambiguous, so that the film will be marketable in the U.S., Canada and Ireland. Director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais takes great pains with the music, wardrobe and props (vehicles) in the creation of the ’77-’78 setting, but the script completely blows it with one character using the phrase “most importantly”, a term that was never used till after 2010. Nothing is mentioned of the other two adopted kids’ parents – who they are or why they would allow their children to be a part of human experiments. The ethics of the experiment is never discussed. The ending is also unsatisfactory with no closure. Characters like Dr. Julie Bouchard (Suzanne Clement) and Mrs. Tridek (Fionnula Flanagan) appear out of nowhere. One is played by a French Canadian and the other an Irish, to be fair. For a film about there children, one would expect the children to be super cute with each one memorable for their own peculiarities and perhaps even stealing the movie from the more experienced actors. No such luck as the children’s roles are underwritten.
One wonders the reason British actor Matthew Goode (hardly recognizable) has ditched his good looks, hiding under a beard and spectacles for the role of the scientist, after all he kept his good looks as a mathematician/scientist in THE IMITATION GAME. Director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais gives himself a cameo as a fellow scientist. Toni Collette assumes another quirky role after the recent MADAME.
The main subject on nature vs. nurture is is never debated or concluded resulting in the film’s good intentions being insufficient to save it.