Film Review: Nine Days

STUDIO: Sony Pictures Classics | DIRECTOR: Edson Oda | CAST: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Jeffrey Hanson, Ariana Ortiz
RELEASE DATE: Aug. 6, 2021
SPECS: R | 124 min. | Fantasy drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2

Nine Days, the first feature by Brazilian-born, Los Angeles-based writer-director Edson Odam, is an unusual, philosophical fantasy wherein a group of souls are given human forms in order to vie for an opportunity to be born.

The person who decides on their future existence is Will (Winston Duke, Us) a black man living in a desolate desert home filled with TV sets and a VCR. As the interviewing proceeds, we learn that Will is dealing with his own personal issues and is conducting these sessions in order to choose a replacement for a young violinist who has died in a tragic accident.

Zazie Beetz in Nine Days

Using the VCR, Will reviews their future lives and, with help from his loquacious Asian assistant Kyo (Benedict Wong, Prometheus), tries to decide which person he has encountered is worthy of moving on and living a full life. Among those seeking the go-ahead is Emma (Zazie Beetz, Joker), whose surprising interest in Will’s past unnerves him; Alexander (Tony Hale, Eat Wheaties!), a class clown type; and the shrewd and occasionally menacing Kane (Bill Skarsgard, It).

Writer-director Oda shows he’s comfortable with actors and acting ensembles, culling fine performances across the board, with Duke and Beetz turning in powerful attention-getting turns. He also proves he can handle his fantastical and heady premise in an effective, no-nonsense, stripped-down manner while veering away from the script’s more pretentious instincts and gaps in logic just in the nick of time.

Nine Days wins points for ambition and originality. But specific elements of this film– which strives throughout to be “thought-provoking,” for better or worse—dabble (in a reverse sort of way) with themes found in such films as Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death and even Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.