Film Review

Birth/Rebirth

todayAugust 3, 2023 115

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By – Gareth Jones

For fans of feminist horror, Frankenstein mythology, body horror

Several years ago I had a student who presented a short film to the class called Fry Day. I found it to be a very accomplished film, especially dealing with the teenage perspective and also for building an atmosphere of dread.  That film used the execution of Ted Bundy as a backdrop, but it dealt with the human emotions of the teenagers in a realistic way.  Cut to the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Midnight premiere of Birth/ Rebirth and I am not surprised to see the director of the short film, Laura Moss, make an equally compelling feature length debut. 

First and foremost, Birth/ Rebirth is a disturbing film, not for those who have a weak stomach.  This is intensified by the emotional story and performances.   Not as much inspired by, as much building on the ideas presented in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Moss presents a female driven tale about a scientist challenging the accepted standards of society in an effort to question the nature of life and creation.  The story follows a nurse, played believably by Judy Reyes (best known for playing a nurse as well in Scrubs) whose daughter suddenly dies.  While trying to deal with this, she encounters a morgue technician, creepily portrayed by Marin Ireland (who starred in the terrifying The Dark and the Wicked). Ireland gives her some depth and nuance beyond the typical evil scientist.  She has been experimenting on bringing animals back to life and is now moving up to humans.  This story does echo Frankenstein, but it takes many turns and gives the characters opportunities to surprise us in how they deal with these ethical dilemmas.  As a parent, this film is particularly unnerving, forcing the audience to question traditional values in the relationship between motherhood and societal expectations.

The direction is crisp and effective as it deals with horrific events and complex questions.  It does all of this from a female perspective and is another welcome addition to the horror genre that reflects the times and the existential horrors that exist in today’s zeitgeist.  In this case, the medical world is sliced up with surgical precision as well as all of the ways that women are treated in the bureaucracy.  Before becoming a director, Laura Moss was a successful production designer and it shows in the attention to detail in Birth/ Rebirth. The cinematography of Chananun Chotrungroj is cool and calculated, revealing just enough to create suspense while also informing the story.  She met Laura Moss at NYU Graduate Program and was able to see the script develop.  This level of connection between two women is clearly evident in the astuteness of the storytelling.  This film will confront you with some disquieting images and uncomfortable thoughts, but it is worth the  journey.

Go see the film at the Sidewalk Film Festival on August 26th at 5:45pm at the Lyric Theatre

Written by: jamric

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