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Nine Days - Film Review

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by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Published July 13th 2021
The meaning of life

Nine Days is a new sci-fi movie directed and written by Edson Oda. Although Oda has made a series of highly-acclaimed and award-winning short films and music videos, this is his debut feature film. It has been officially selected for the Sundance Film Festival and features several international actors and actresses.

In fact, it is a racially diverse film. The director is Japanese-Brazilian, the lead actor is Tobagonian, the lead actress is German, other actors are British, Swedish and American. This gives the film both an international feel and a deliberate look of non-specific placement.

Winston Duke as Will in NINE DAYS. Photo by Michael Coles. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The cast is headed by Winston Duke (Will) who is best known for his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, Black Panther and Avengers. Zazie Beetz (Emma) has starred in the comedy-drama series Atlanta. Benedict Wong (Kyo) is known for portraying Kublai Khan in Netflix's Marco Polo. You will probably recognise the face of Tony Hale, who is known for his role in the comedy series Arrested Development, amongst other works. Bill Skarsgård (Kane) is most known for playing Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the supernatural horror films It, based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. A stellar cast I think you'll agree.

Zazie Beetz as Emma in NINE DAYS. Photo by Michael Coles. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Judging by the low technology - dozens of old-fashioned grainy telly screens and VHS tapes – I'd say Nine Days is set in the last quarter of the 20th century. (Some readers may have heard of a war in the 1970s between Betamax tapes, which were developed by Sony, versus VHS Digital). Other visual clues are the daggy jumpers and the beige house décor.

At times, it seemed that there may have been a parallel universe or another reality ala The Truman Show. The irony of my watching a movie of people viewing other's lives on TV screens made me wonder if I were being watched too? Like a voyeur watching other people watching TV such as Gogglebox.

I don't want to give too much away re the plot and spoil it for you. Let's just say it is a vision of human souls in limbo, wanting to be born against the odds. The main character "Will" spends his days in a remote, unspecified location watching the live feed points-of-view on a bank of televisions. After an incident on one of the screens, several candidates arrive to undergo judgement and assessments for the amazing opportunity of life, facing oblivion if they are deemed unsuitable.

Benedict Wong as Kyo in NINE DAYS. Photo by Michael Coles. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The candidates are up against almost impossible odds, such as moral dilemmas in interviews, often using brutal tactics, and they don't even know what the criteria are for selection. Sounds bleak, I know, but there is also humour, laughter, music and touches of compassion and sensual beauty throughout the film to relieve the tension.

I'm no philosopher but the film's existentialism theme had me questioning the meaning of life and the individuals' free will to determine their development. The film abounds with metaphors for what it is to be human. The idea of undead versus being alive reminded of "Unthank" in Alasdair Gray's amazing Scottish book Lanark. It too is an unpleasant place, with spiritual darkness, a present-day hell where a man without a past, tries to remember the concept of hope. Other literary and movie comparisons which sprang to mind were George Orwell's 1984 (but at least the characters knew their every move was being watched by Big Brother) and the recent series Traveler which, examines the essence of self, memory and what makes us who we are.

I recommend that you go with friends so that you can debate the serious issues afterwards over a drink. After all, what is life?

In cinemas nationally from July 15

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*May Cross was invited as a guest
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Why? serious cinema
When: from 15 June
Where: selected cinemas
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by Gerii Caulfield on 16/07/2021
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