Review: Ava DuVernay’s ‘Origin’ is an unflinching look at how caste divides the beautiful world

Ava DuVernay is one of the filmmakers who never shies away from showing impactful stories on the big screen. The director floored everyone with Selma, which is considered one of the most well-crafted biopics of recent times. Meanwhile, she delivered hard-hitting projects such as 13th and When They See Us to let everyone know the ugly truth about our society. However, none of her previous titles have been more ambitious than her latest drama, Origin.

Origin is the story of Isabel Wilkerson and so much more

It’s not easy for filmmakers to make movies that blow away minds with their subject, and it takes a lot of effort to create that kind of story, and that’s what DuVernay has done with her latest piece of art. Based on the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel WilkersonOrigin tells the story of Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) and how she prioritized her family over her writing ambitions. 

As Origin progresses, the author is tasked to write a piece about race relations in the United States. The tragic case of Trayvon Martin has shocked the entire nation, and her editor feels this is the best time for Wilkerson to write something. After saying no to the offer many times, she decides to listen to the audio recording of what happened when Martin was fatally shot. Wilkerson feels a lot of uneasiness and wants to write about it. However, in the process, she deals with a lot of personal tragedies and loses her husband and her mother in a very short period.

While coping with all these tragedies, Wilkerson decides to embark on a journey to discover minor details about how this world is divided by “caste.” She travels across the US and even flies to Germany and India to learn more about this man-made division. What we see next is a devastating journey of a woman learning about how a certain section of society is made to feel inferior at every point in time.

DuVernay puts truth in our faces in Origin

It is difficult to tell a story that is really sensitive. Caste is one subject that could make many people uncomfortable, but DuVernay doesn’t leave any stone unturned to throw the truth in our faces in Origin. One of the film’s best aspects is how it tells the story in an anthology of mini-biographical profiles of famous historical figures. These people did a phenomenal job in standing up against systemic racism and helped in raising awareness about it. 

The script, written by DuVernay, dives deeper into Wilkerson’s book and does an extraordinary job showing what she learned about different caste systems in the US, Germany, and India. Another important aspect of this film is how it never preaches hate but draws the audience to think about how this vicious circle started. How are some people pinned down to the ground so that others can flourish? These are some of the burning questions that Origin asks, and makes people aware of others’ hate toward a specified community.

Apart from the script, DuVernay’s direction steals the show. The filmmaker showcases Wilkerson’s written work with compassion and firmness. Additionally, she doesn’t lose her grip on storytelling because of her ambitions. Her most crucial impact lies in blurring the distinction between personal and professional inequalities. It’s really essential to understand that inequality doesn’t discriminate and can happen to anyone at any given point in time. DuVernay truly excels in showing a story that needed a lot of determination.

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor is impeccable as Isabel Wilkerson

As far as acting in Origin is concerned, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor delivers one of the year’s strongest and emotionally charged-up performances. Her impeccable acting skills never let viewers rest easy as they are taken away on a disturbing yet eye-opening journey. It’s a travesty that such a beautiful performance is being overlooked during the awards season. Nevertheless, Ellis-Taylor is just magnificent as Isabel Wilkerson. 

On the other hand, Jon Bernthal is also amazing in his respective role. However, it’s Niecy Nash-Betts who steals the show with her meticulous performance. She exhibits remarkable depth and authenticity in her character’s emotions. Her acting prowess shines through, captivating audiences with her compelling and engaging presence on screen. She is truly one-of-a-kind talent.

All the other supporting cast, including Connie NielsenNick OffermanAudra McDonald, and Vera Farmiga, are stellar in their respective performances.

Final thoughts on Ava DuVernay’s Origin

Overall, Origin is a profound and interconnected experience and a painfully significant piece of cinema in recent history. Its sensitive approach to the source material feels like something that dives deeper into society and forces viewers to reflect and introspect. The film feels like taking a history masterclass in getting to know how caste divides people. Every part of Origin is interesting, and when they come together, they form a big picture with amazing consequences.

Let’s take a moment to applaud Ava DuVernay for tackling important stories for society. Origin is one of them.

Origin is now in limited theaters

Ava DuVernay’s Origin is now playing in limited theaters. The movie will be in theaters nationwide starting on January 19, 2024. Learn more about the film, including how to buy tickets, at Origin’s official website.

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