In theaters Aug. 6
Will (Winston Duke) spends his days in a remote outpost watching the live Point of View (POV) on TV's of people going about their lives, until one subject perishes, leaving a vacancy for a new life on earth. Soon, several candidates - unborn souls in limbo - arrive at Will's to undergo tests determining their fitness, facing oblivion when they are deemed unsuitable. Will faces his own existential challenge from a candidate, who forces him to reckon with his own tumultuous past.
Imaginative, heartfelt and very metaphysical, “Nine Days” is a thought-provoking look at what it means to be human.
While there’s a touch of Terence Malick’s “Tree of Life” in 2011, Wm Wenders “Wings of Desire” in 1987, and even last year’s “Soul” from Pixar, it is original in its contemplation on the meaning of life
While interviewing candidates for the opportunity to live as a human being, Will faces his own existential challenge. Zazie Beetz’ excels as playing Emma, a questioning free-spirit who is not like the others. Already a forceful personality, she asks him questions that he really wasn’t prepared to answer – and that forces him to look at his life, reconciling his past.
Other candidates run the gamut between a more cynical Alexander (Emmy winner Tony Hale of “Veep”), skeptical Kane (Bill Skarsgard, the clown in “It” remakes), timid Maria (Arianna Ortiz) and David Rysdahl as a meek soul who fears he is inferior.
Duke is known as the terrified dad in “Us” and as M’Baku in “Black Panther,” roles needing a more physical performance. As Will, he shows a different facet of his abilities – it’s a quiet, measured performance where he also displays his character’s flaws and torment.
In his feature film debut, Edson Oda, a Japanese-Brazilian director who went to USC’s film school, shows a great deal of potential. He’s worked in music videos and short films and has a keen eye for crafting images.
Oda won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for “Nine Days” at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and went on to be nominated for best first feature at the Independent Spirit Awards earlier this year.
The look of the film is intriguing – with a normal house setting in the middle of nowhere – and cinematographer Wyatt Garfield captures the moods well. He also worked on the visually stunning “Beasts of a Southern Wild.”
Production designer Dan Hermansen anchors it as reality in a spiritual and celestial world. He’s known for TV work on “Supernatural” and “Superman and Lois,” which deal with otherworldly realities.
The music by Antonio Pinto bolsters the drama’s desolate feel but with a yearning vibe, too.
Nine Days’ is currently available only in theaters, but Sony Pictures Classics will eventually make it available on digital platforms and likely premiere it on Starz after three months, as has been their custom with 2020 releases.
Even with its slow middle, this meditative, psychological drama will linger.