TV 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 Brian’s, but in fact 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 is stolen, and as the numpty he was, he had written everything down about Adam. And it’s downhill from there.
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, but no actor I could think of looked like him. And then, I saw him right there on the TV screen. And that’s how I became a Ken Olin fan.
Have been trying ever since to track this film 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 to Mr T about not being able to find it. He 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 to show them what my professor looks like.
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 I’m too busy looking at a handsome actor who looks exactly like one of my roleplaying characters. Whatcha gonna do?
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.
3.3 out of 5 totem poles.