Evolution’s Child (1999)

Film review: Evolution’s Child (1999), directed by Jeffrey Reiner

The Cordells, Brian (Taylor Nichols) and Elaine (Heidi Swedberg), are unable to conceive a child. They’ve tried everything, and then they seek help at the clinic where James Mydell (Ken Olin), an old college pal of Brian’s, works as a fertility doctor. Can he help? Sure. A child is conceived through IVF but there’s an accident and the unborn child is lost. As it turned out, it would have had severe birth defects and might not have made it anyway.

The couple have another go, and this time the result is successful, and a healthy baby boy is born, named Adam and James gets to be the godfather. This would have all been peachy, if it hadn’t been for the fact that the sperm used in the IVF wasn’t one of Brian’s sickly ones, but in fact, defrosted specimen from a 3000 year old man found in the ice in the Italian Alps, which James had got as a souvenir for his help in extracting a DNA sample for a scientist friend. The samples got mixed up in the lab. In fact, Adam is special – his biological daddy was a Bronze Age man … If only the good doctor had the heart to tell the boy’s parents …

From a young age, James can tell Adam has a special bond with animals, and as the years pass (the family spend five years in England), Adam (Jacob Smith, Owen from Party of Five, if anyone still remembers that show) can predict the weather and he can communicate with animals – and even have some extraordinary healing powers. James is fascinated, and he’s also the only one Adam really feels he can talk to, because James doesn’t think his gifts are weird.

But then the harddrive of James’s office computer gets stolen, and as the numpty he was, he had written everything down about Adam. And it’s downhill from there.

Google Images provides a
very insufficient number of
screenshots from this film.
This needs remedying.

This is a film I originally came across on Syfy a few years ago. I saw a little bit about half-way through, was intrigued and then ended up watching the rest of it. Partly because it was about a child with seemingly supernatural powers and partially because there was this guy who completely blew me away. When I dreamed up one of my roleplaying characters, he was tall, dark and handsome, and could have been the love child of Sam Neill and Thomas Anders – but he was neither. And then, I saw him right there on the TV screen. Wow. And that’s how I became a Ken Olin fan.

Have been trying ever since to track it down on DVD (or failing that, VHS), but no luck. Until one day, someone responded to my plea on the IMDb message boards saying that there’s an anthology of sci-fi films just come out in the US, and it’s one of those six films. Hooray! While trying to find the film originally, I had complained about not being able to find it to the Squeeze, who managed to find the book it was based on, Toys of Glass by Martin Booth, and got it for me. Very kind of him, although slightly beside the point. I couldn’t exactly take screenshots of the novel and show them off to fellow roleplayers cooing over my handsome professor. 😉

It’s a made-for-TV film and it’s not brilliantly scripted. Smith does a good job playing Adam, there are some gorgeous nature shots (and a close-up of a cat that made me smile), an interesting concept of a story, but if you’ve ever seen pictures of Ötzi, you know there’s no way Mr. Bronze Age could be that well preserved, even if he was frozen very quickly. I think you might even struggle with liquid nitrogen over three millennia, to be honest. Not to mention that his sperm just need thawing and they’re swimming and fertile like it’s nobody’s business? You can drive a truck through a plot hole of that size.

If you choose to disregard it, which I’m willing to do because my mind is sort of otherwise engaged. You know: tall, dark, broad-chested, handsome – nay, gorgeousdoctor, who’s really sweet, a good cook and great with kids and enjoys being out in nature. Plot hole? What plot hole? Sorry, were you saying something? Just as well he doesn’t speak with an Irish accent because that would just be too frickin’ hot to handle. (That character I mentioned above, modelled to be some sort of Perfect Man? He’s from County Sligo.)

As a film, it’s enjoyable, although it feels like they over-use close-ups a bit. It deals with some tricky decisions and ethics and what have you, and it could’ve been a lot better. Then again, it could’ve been a lot worse as well. It’s a 3.3 out of 5 totem poles for the film and a perfect ten for the handsome doctor, because I can be really shallow at times. 😛

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