"The Guardian" claims it is? I guess. It's an underrated film, that's for sure, but I'm not sure underrated is synonymous with brilliant. Given the polarizing reaction towards the film when it was released I would say that I feel a little weird for being so indifferent towards it. The above mentioned successes of the film don't necessarily erase the film's flaws, most glaringly the casting of Cameron Bright as the 10 year-old Sean. His performance is almost as annoying as Haley Joel Osmet's from The Sixth Sense as he mumbles and mopes his way through his lines and struggles to make them not laughable. It's the only part of Glazer's "fairy tale" that I didn't buy. I understand why the director had him deliver his lines that way, as it's appropriate that he sound like he's in a trance of some kind, but I grew tired of it after about 30 minutes. It's something that ruined a lot of the film for me because Sean was such a central part of the story.
Birth is certainly a lot better than the previews made it seem back in 2004 (mostly because they tried to sell it as some kind of weird ghost story), but I don't think it's as good as a lot of people who constructed their end-of-the-decade lists made it out to be. Underrated, sure, but again that doesn't mean it's a masterpiece. There is some impressive filmmaking going on here, and Glazer successfully elicits the kind of Kubrickian mood that he's going for, but I just couldn't buy into the some of the scenes in the middle of the movie. Birth has impressive and powerful bookends – especially the staggeringly great finale on the beach – but its bogged-down middle is something that nearly sinks the film with the poor acting of Bright. That being it was more than worth the 90 minutes (especially thanks to that musical score) and I'm glad I watched the film and took the advice of Tony Dayoub, who listed it on his best of 2004 list, because aesthetically it's about as well executed as a film can be…I just wish I could have bought that story.