Origin (2024) – Movie Review

In many ways, “Origins” feels like a one-hour documentary turned 2+ hour drama despite having strong enough thoughts and messages that didn’t need a dramatization.


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Brett (Jon Bernthal) and Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor)

Plot Summary

Isabel Wilkerson is an acclaimed writer and author at the beginning of “Origin.” After dedicating herself immensely to her first book, she has transitioned away from assignment writing to books, and as much as the murder of Trayvon Martin does tug at her, especially as she hears the different reactions to it, he is but one part of a larger story, a larger question. Which with Isabel wanting to present answers to people, not add to the immense number of questions, she realizes an article isn’t enough.

So, with her next work, she seeks to look beyond the idea of racism and focus on caste. It’s a challenging idea in some ways, especially for Americans, never mind trying to make caste the link between the racism of America, the Holocaust, and the caste system of India.

Yet, after seeing how her partner Brett was treated in family reunions, with interacting with many an elite, common folk or those dedicated to academia, Isabel doesn’t see exceptionalism in her life or interactions, but a hierarchy she seeks to express in full thought but make it simple enough to give many an “A-Ha!” moment.

Content Information

  • Dialog: Discriminatory Language, Cursing (Occasional)
  • Violence: Weapon Violence (Type: Gun – Implied Murder)
  • Sexual Content: Sexual Situations (Implied)
  • Miscellaneous: Depiction of Corpses, Drinking, Discriminatory Paraphernalia, Vomiting

General Information

Director(s)

Ava DuVernay

Screenplay By

Ava DuVernay

Based On Work By

Isabel Wilkerson

Date Released

January 19, 2024

How To Watch

In Theaters

Genre(s)

Adventure, Drama, Historical

Film Length

2 Hours 15 Minutes

Content Rating

Rated PG-13

Noted Characters and Cast

Isabel Wilkerson

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor

Brett

Jon Bernthal

Ruby

Emily Yancy

Marion

Niecy Nash

Trayvon Martin

Myles Frost

Allison Davis

Isha Blaaker

Elizabeth Davis

Jasmine Cephas Jones

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist, Isabel is the type of writer who would rather not add more questions to the zeitgeist but rather provide answers.

Brett (Jon Bernthal)

Brett is Isabel’s husband.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Sharp Stick.”

Ruby (Emily Yancy)

Ruby is Isabel’s mother.

Marion (Niecy Nash)

Marion is Isabel’s cousin.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Agent Elvis.”

Trayvon Martin (Myles Frost)

Trayvon Martin is a young man who was murdered due to the prejudice of his murderer.

Allison Davis (Isha Blaaker)

Allison Davis and Elizabeth Davis are among the first major Black anthropologists to study the American South.

Elizabeth Davis (Jasmine Cephas Jones)

Elizabeth Davis, alongside Allison Davis, is one of the first major Black anthropologists who studied the American South.

Review


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Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Notable Performances or Moments

Once The Film Gets Messy And Challenges Tough Subjects And Trying To Link Them

Most of the film’s early parts are tiresome as we see Isabel’s marriage and her relationship with her mom. However, our interest in the film was triggered when that generations-old comparison between the plight of Jewish people during the Holocaust was put beside slavery, from the middle passage to Jim Crow.

Now, this conversation is by no means new as, for many, the comparison between the genocide of Jewish people in the Holocaust, American slavery, and the genocide of Indigenous Americans have shared the conversation of the worst crimes of humanity. But, where things always get complicated is trying to put them side by side, for this leads to comparing numbers, trying to undercut one tragedy to push the horrors of another, and it all devolves into the oppression Olympics.

But, with “Origin” being scripted and led by Black women, there is no cutting someone off, and when they think of a retort, it is too late. Through a reminder of how America inspired Nazi Germany, Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to India, and coming to realize that he is an untouchable in his own country, connection is built, and you are pushed to understand Isabel’s point in the simplest terms.

As shown early on in the movie, when a Trump supporter is giving her subpar service until she relates about losing a parent, it really isn’t racism that is the ultimate driving force regarding division. If the caste system existed in India, wherever everyone is some shade of brown, if Jews are to be considered White as any other German previous to the Holocaust, then what truly divides people is far more complicated than the go-to answer of racism.

One of the pillars pushed is that it’s all about figuring out a way to other, stereotype and limit the interactions between people so that an exception can’t disprove generalities. For us vs. them is the easiest way to rule. If there is only we, it requires true work to gain or hold power.

Highlights

Niecy Nash

While we appreciate the message and the challenge of trying to convey a thought which, in linking different crimes against humanity, you are essentially walking into a field of landmines, what Nash brings is necessary relief. Yes, it is mostly comic relief, but it also reminds people like Isabel that you can’t forget everyday people when you write these big ideas.

Yes, the academics get it and will argue for or against it, but if you are going to talk about caste, you can’t just speak to and amongst your own. And with Nash’s Marion pushing that, it’s one of the rare times you see someone push back against Isabel without, no matter how much time given, she can’t manufacture a comeback.

On The Fence

This Movie Didn’t Need To Be Two Hours

At times, it can feel like “Origin” is a documentary or something you’d see on the History Channel that got morphed into a drama because they are more palatable than documentaries. The problem is with that, a lot of what is presented in the film doesn’t complement the message as often as it competes with it.

For example, Isabel’s personal life is part of the movie, whether it is her relationship with her husband Brett, cousin Marion, or mother Ruby. This is alongside jumps in history in which Trayvon Martin, Allison, and Elizabeth Davis, among others, are used to further the film’s point. Now, when it comes to Allison and Elizabeth Davis, that makes sense, and that is where you get a sense of the old-school History Channel as you are shown how their work ties with the message of the movie.

However, while Brett is used as partial inspiration for Isabel’s book on caste, because of how the majority of her family treats him, it is difficult to get into Isabel’s personal life since it feels unnecessary. The hook here is pushing the idea that racism is a simple, easy-to-shoot-off explanation compared to the pillars of the caste system. So throwing in these actors, even if they are as comical as Niecy Nash, really presents the idea that, in order to get the idea of the book outside the bubble of those who would read “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” it was thought they needed to add a notable amount of fat.

And granted, for anyone who cooks, you know that fat is sometimes necessary for flavor. However, the message behind “Origin” already is juicy and appetizing enough. There is no need for all this extra stuff that ultimately can feel less like nourishment and more like brain fog from overindulgence of the worst kind.

Good If You Like

  • Message-heavy films

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Origin (2024) – Review
Brett (Jon Bernthal) and Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor)

Movie title: Origin (2024)

Movie description: Isabel Wilkerson, inspired by the racial injustice in the news to the treatment of her White partner at family functions, seeks to prove caste, far more than racism, is the bane of human society.

Date published: January 8, 2024

Country: USA

Duration: 2 Hours 15 Minutes

Author: Amari Allah

Director(s): Ava DuVernay

Actor(s): Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Jon Bernthal, Emily Yancy, Niecy Nash, Myles Frost, Isha Blaaker, Jasmine Cephas Jones

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Historical

Summary

While we do appreciate how “Origin” can bring attention to “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” at the same time, like many book adaptations that use “Based On” to make it clear that they are only aiming to use the hooks of a book, “Origin” feels like a disservice. Not because anyone was a bad actor, but simply because a bloated film was made.

Overall
81%
81%
  • Once The Film Gets Messy And Challenges Tough Subjects And Trying To Link Them - 87%
    87%
  • Niecy Nash - 83%
    83%
  • This Movie Didn’t Need To Be Two Hours - 73%
    73%

Highlight(s)

  • Niecy Nash
  • Once The Film Gets Messy And Challenges Tough Subjects And Trying To Link Them

Disputable

  • This Movie Didn’t Need To Be Two Hours

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