Movie Review: ‘Origin’ | Moviefone

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson in director Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origin.’ Photo: Neon.

Expanding to wide release in theaters on January 19th is the latest entry from writer/director Ava DuVernay (‘Selma,’ ‘A Wrinkle In Time’) entitled ‘Origin,’ which examines Isabel Wilkerson’s book ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent’ and the author’s journey to find the connection between the Nazi’s persecution of the Jewish people, racism in America, and the caste system in India.

Related Article: Director Ava DuVernay and Actress Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor Talk ‘Origin’

Initial Thoughts

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson in director Ava DuVernay's 'Origin.'

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson in director Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origin.’ Photo: Neon.

Ava DuVernay has a way of retelling true life events in such a way that makes it feel raw and visceral, putting the audience in that exact moment in time. From seeing Isabel Wilkerson’s personal life – her losses and grief, her journey of finding the connection between the persecution of Jews, the caste system in India, and racism in America, and finally publishing her book.

DuVernay’s take on telling the story of Wilkerson and ‘Caste’ is thought provoking and complex. The movie’s structure is quite interesting, starting off in a bio-pic style drama with Wilkerson’s personal life and what eventually motivates her to pen ‘Caste,’ and then taking on an expositionary style as Wilkerson breaks down the main points and topics of her book, utilizing extended flashback scenes in history.

At times, it feels like there are three movies playing at once, but in the end, it all connects beautifully.

Story and Direction

Ava DuVernay on the set of 'Origin.'

(Center) Ava DuVernay on the set of ‘Origin.’ Photo: Neon.

‘Origin’ is written and directed by Ava DuVernay. It explores Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson and her deeply personal journey as she begins writing her book ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’

The movie is a blend of a drama and narrative essay, with the first act focusing on Isabel Wilkerson’s (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) personal life. Setting up the background of her work as a writer, and gives the audience an inside look at her family life with her husband Brett (Jon Bernthal), her mother Ruby (Emily Yancy), and her cousin Marion (Niecy Nash).

Shortly after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, Isabel’s editor Amari Selvan (Blair Underwood) implores her to do a story on his case and asks her to look into the 911 call that was released. Reluctant at first, Isabel ends up listening to the 911 call, realizing there’s more to the story than just the killing of a Black teenager due to racism. In searching for something deeper, Isabel sets off on a global journey to find the connection between racism in America, the Holocaust, and the social hierarchy in India.

Ava DuVernay's 'Origin.'

Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origin.’ Photo: Neon.

Throughout Isabel’s research, there are extended scenes flashing back to that exact moment in time – a German man falling in love with a Jewish woman and then forced apart by the Nazis, the Jim Crow era in America, and the treatment of Dalits in India.

Later, as Isabel completes her book, it becomes a narrative essay taking the audience through the chapters of the book.

The pacing of this movie is at times uneven and may have to do with going back and forth between seeing Isabel’s family life to extended re-enactment scenes that reflect a certain point in history or a topic in Wilkerson’s research. However, this does not discount the importance of each flashback scene, as they give more color to Isabel’s research.

Performances

Jon Bernthal as Brett Hamilton and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson in director Ava DuVernay's 'Origin.'

(L to R) Jon Bernthal as Brett Hamilton and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson in director Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origin.’ Photo: Neon.

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (‘The Color Purple,’ ‘King Richard’) as Isabel Wilkerson was the perfect choice. She played each emotion and reaction – big or small – with such nuance and authenticity. Watching Isabel’s life slowly fall apart throughout the movie as she suffers the loss of family members and Ellis-Taylor’s heartbreaking performance in those moments will surely stir up the emotions of the audience.

Alongside Ellis-Taylor, co-stars Jon Bernthal, Niecy Nash, Emily Yancy, and Audra McDonald also delivered stellar performances despite their brief screen time.

Final Thoughts

Jon Bernthal as Brett Hamilton and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson in director Ava DuVernay's 'Origin.'

(L to R) Jon Bernthal as Brett Hamilton and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Isabel Wilkerson in director Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origin.’ Photo: Neon.

DuVernay’s ambitious film carries a very important message and will certainly start conversations on the topic of racism and social hierarchy. While the structure of the film is unconventional and uneven at times, it does its best to present Isabel’s journey of research, every historical event, and its outcome. Everything does come together beautifully in the end.

‘Origin’’ receives 7 out of 10 stars.

PG-132 hr 21 minJan 19th, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

While grappling with tremendous personal tragedy, writer Isabel Wilkerson sets herself on a path of global investigation and discovery. Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Origin’?

Grappling with tremendous personal tragedy, writer Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) sets herself on a path of global investigation and discovery as she writes ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.’

Who is in the cast of ‘Origin’?

Ava DuVernay on the set of 'Origin.'

(Center) Ava DuVernay on the set of ‘Origin.’ Photo: Neon.

Other Ava DuVernay Movies:

Buy Tickets: ‘Origins’ Movie Showtimes

Buy Ava DuVernay Movies on Amazon

#Movie #Review #Origin #Moviefone

What’s your Reaction?
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0