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Friday, April 13, 2012 - Page updated at 10:00 p.m.

Movie review
'Natural Selection': Rachael Harris memorable in seed of a comedy

By Stephen Holden
The New York Times

The most memorable element of Robbie Pickering's debut feature, "Natural Selection," is Rachael Harris' portrayal of Linda, a dutiful wife whose older husband, Abe (John Diehl), refuses to have sex with her.

They are Christians living on the outskirts of Houston. Both are sure she is barren, and Abe believes that sex for procreation is the only reason to copulate.

Linda's life suddenly changes when Abe has a severe stroke while at a sperm-donor clinic he has been secretly visiting for 25 years. We see a hilarious tidbit of the nun-and-priest dirty movie he was watching when he was felled.

Fearing impending death, Abe mumbles to Linda that he wants to meet a son he has sired. Digging through the clinic's records, she discovers one in Tampa, Fla., and goes to find him.

This is not as funny as it may sound. But then "Natural Selection" is not quite a comedy. A dimly lighted film with washed-out color and a muffled soundtrack that renders some dialogue unintelligible, it still won a passel of awards at the 2011 South by Southwest festival.

But its technical limitations are serious impediments to appreciation. The storytelling and editing are also choppy.

Aside from Harris' performance, the reason to recommend this movie is that its creator clearly has talent.

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