BIRTH/REBIRTH – Review by Justina Walford

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My favorite horror films are symbolic shadow work, a protagonist who is quintessentially “the good one” and another living our darkest intrusive thoughts, with the darkness mentoring the light in a grim spiritual and moral journey.

Birth/Rebirth is that film.

Marin Ireland is delicious as the snarky, cruel morgue technician Dr. Caspar who, instead of taking on lovers, masturbates men in bathrooms for their sperm. Judy Reyes is devastating as Celie, a nurse who suddenly loses her daughter, Lila, and is plagued by guilt for how little she was present for her daughter in her last moments.

The two cross paths when Celie catches Dr. Caspar using her daughter in an experiment to re-animate the dead. A modern-day Frankenstein. I believe Mary Shelley would delight in seeing her story become a genre with films like this. And it is not just a genre about reanimation or even about humans wanting to be gods. It is a genre that would be much closer to Mary Shelley’s heart: the motivation behind bringing back the dead – grief and guilt.

Writer/director Laura Moss eloquently takes their characters through great sacrifices, even if these women are seemingly unafraid of what they do with their bodies and minds for what their hearts truly desire. Any gender could see the blind focus in both of these women and how it destroys what gifts of life they have at the beginning of the film. Dr. Caspar’s body practically disintegrates before us as she sacrifices body and mind for her experiment. And the brightness of Celie’s motherhood devolves in an equally ruinous way. And woven within the scenes of self-mutilation and mental anguish, we find the two women bond in mundane moments, with Celie throwing barbs at Dr Caspar’s veganism and Dr. Caspar catching herself in a rare moment of joy with Celie’s friendship.

In so many ways, this film shows the timely end of the female archetypes of Madonna and whore. That old trope is tossed to the curb while we move forward into a domain that overlaps traditional male archetypes but is also distinctly feminine. Dr. Caspar and Celie are the new female archetypes: the untethered seeker or scientist and the mother who will do anything for her child. And through these characters, we find an unnerving exploration of motherhood, life purpose, and our place as humans in a world of chaos and fear.

The crux of the film can be heard in an offhand word of wisdom to Dr. Caspar, “Life isn’t about one thing.” But the message in this story defies the argument for a rounded life. Life is about one thing. It’s about the darkness that exists under our light. It is about the power and danger of obsession triggered by our own emotional frailties. Life is finding a way to exist with death in whatever way gets us there. And because of this, life is shadow. Life is death.


An award-winning writer of screen and stage, Justina Walford was also the Founder and Festival Director of Women Texas Film Festival for the life of the fest and she was programming director of Oxford Film Festival for two years. A lover of adrenaline-filled movies since she could understand the word “zombie,” she is particularly drawn to strong women’s voices in alternative genres such as horror, action, and science fiction.

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