Elegant Anne (Nicole Kidman), already a widow for a decade, is getting ready to marry again. But as fiancà Joseph (Danny Huston) and Anna’s posh family gather to celebrate the engagement, a 10-year-old named Sean walks in and announces that he is the Sean to whom Anne was previously married and that she mustn’t marry Joseph.
The kid has an uncanny knowledge of Anne’s past and private life, and while the family is skeptical and Joseph is furious, Anna is still so deeply smitten with her lost love that she’s increasingly open to the possibility that the kid really is who he claims to be.
It’s a patently outlandish situation, but director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) and company have an exquisitely sure sense of what is most compelling and fascinating in all this. Glazer’s dream-like mise en scène, cameraman Harris Savides’ Balthus-like visuals and Alexander Desplat’s delicately disturbing musical score all contribute to the weirdly deranged spell the film casts.
Glazer makes excellent use of an outstanding cast (including young Cameron Bright as the eerily prescient Sean), and Kidman is particularly brilliant in creating portraits of emotional turmoil on the blurred boundaries between sanity and madness. In the end, the aura of supernatural mystery gets a little too patly undercut, but much of Birth is haunting and richly evocative psychodrama of an exceptionally high order.