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An 11-year-old with OCA2, a form of albinism. Human Nature delves into whether conditions like this should be edited out of human genomes before birth.

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  • Human Nature
  • Directed by Adam Bolt
  • Written by Adam Bolt and Regina Sobel
  • Starring: Fyodor Urnov, Antonio Regalado, Alta Charo and David Sanchez
  • Classification: PG; 94 minutes

rating

Bottles of nucleic acids at Synthego, a company which synthesizes the key components of CRISPR at an industrial scale.

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“When you see something unusual, you automatically assume it’s interesting,” says a microbiologist in Human Nature, a documentary on the science and ethics of genetic editing and engineering. “That’s just how science works.”

It may be how science works, but it’s not how filmmaking works. So, while the first chunk of Adam Bolt’s Human Nature will be catnip for the biochemists, the rank and file Science for Dummies people might find the DNA-coding tutorial DOA. Still, the soundtrack is charismatic and the talking heads are the fun chemistry-teacher types, not the lab-coat introverts.

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David Sanchez, a teenager with sickle-cell disease, looks at a tube containing the CRISPR gene editing machinery.

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A science lesson on the eureka-level technology called CRISPR eventually sets up a lively discussion on the ethics of designer babies and building better humans. An interesting voice belongs to David Sanchez, an upbeat boy with sickle cell anemia who believes his condition gave him an evolved sense of patience and positivity.

“I don’t think I’d be me, if I didn’t have have sickle cell,” he says. The “who dares to play God?” discussion is nothing new – Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World involved genetically modified citizens – but now science fiction has turned into science fact.

In 1993′s Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s prudent doctor character worried that genetic scientists were too preoccupied with “could we?” and not enough with “should we?” With Human Nature, director Bolt offers balance and nuance to the arguments.

Human Nature opens in Toronto and Victoria on Oct. 4, before expanding theatrically across Canada.

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