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[Sundance ’23] ‘birth/rebirth’ review: Modern Frankenstein film shocks Sundance

The movie grossed people out.

birth/rebirth is a modern Frankenstein story about two women who try to resurrect a little girl’s corpse. Celie (Judy Reyes, Smile) is a maternity nurse whose daughter Lila has suddenly passed away due to bacterial meningitis. When she encounters obsessive pathologist Rose (Marin Ireland, The Dark and the Wicked), the two form an unlikely partnership.

The film does not pull back from the gore, as evidenced by reports the premiere had to be evacuated due to audience members feeling sick. There are graphic scenes of large needles entering bodies, placentas in jars, and lots and lots of blood. None of this is meant to scare the audience; it is instead meant to show the pain of motherhood.

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birth/rebirth is anchored by its two leads. Celie is the emotional mother who is happy to have her daughter back – even if Lila is little more than a husk of what she was before. For her part, the usually isolated Rose is willing to work in tandem with someone. The two are brought together by circumstances and despite all their differences, manage to form a bond. As the film progresses, the two become closer. Their personalities never change and it would be a stretch to call them friends, but there is definitely a connection. They both have the shared goal of keeping Lila alive, albeit for different reasons. Everything culminates in the final moments.

[Sundance '23] 'birth/rebirth' review: Modern Frankenstein film shocks Sundance

birth/rebirth is a funny movie with much of the comedy coming for the efficient and emotionless Rose. This includes a great scene early when she meets a man at a bar and some fantastic deadpan lines. Celie is also very funny and tries to make people feel better. The humor is a great way to showcase how different the two women are.

The deeper the two get involved with keeping Lila alive, the more obstacles are thrown in their path. This leads to a frantic ending as the two mothers are tested as to how far they are willing to go. The last scene put on exclamation point on the journey the pair have been though.

The Sundance Film Festival takes place from January 19 -29. Full lineup can be found HERE

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