Nine Days is not an easy film to watch. I also get the feeling that this is a film that is going to divide audiences. I could tell that from a screening I attended where half the people were sitting in bewildered silence during the end credits while the other half were already singing the film’s praises.
Directed by first time feature filmmaker Edson Oda, Nine Days tells the intriguing story of Will (Winston Duke) whose role it is to decide which unborn souls are right to be sent out into the human world.
Will spends his days watching the POV cameras that show him how the souls that he has previously chosen are living their lives, while occasionally talking to his friend Kyo (Benedict Wong) who always seems to be worried that Will is over-working and not enjoying life.
Things take a tragic turn though when one of the souls that Will watches over dies in an accident that may or may not be suicide. As that sinks in, followed by the fact that he is watching another struggle under the weight of constant bullying, Will realises that perhaps the souls that he is sending out into the world are not cut out for it. Despite Kyo warning him not to, Will decides to be tougher on the next candidates despite knowing that any soul not selected will be wiped into oblivion.
To make matters worse one of the souls that Will is interviewing this time around is like no other. The free-spirited Emma (Zazie Betz) instantly bonds with both Will and Kyo, but while Kyo feels that she is the perfect candidate, Will disagrees and feels other candidates are better options.
I found that once I got my head around this world that Edson Oda created, the tension in the film rose completely. Early on, I found my head filled with questions like ‘why is this guy watching all of these screens’, ‘how does this world work exactly’ but once I let that settle, I was able to finally concentrate on what was important – and that was really a soul (ie a person) basically begging to be allowed the opportunity to live.
Nine Days may be a slow burn, but it also packs the emotional tension of a well-crafted thriller. The two pronged suspensions comes from not only seeing which soul Will ultimately chooses, but also on what happens to the bullied soul that is cracking under the pressure.
There are moments of true beauty with Nine Days, some of the scenes that depict Emma learning by life while being encouraged by Kyo are enough to bring a tear to your eyes. So are the moments where Will tries all he can to make the discarded souls last few moments something special and calming.
Aside from the amazing visuals created by Edson Oda and his cinematographer Wyatt Garfield, the other powerful force in Nine Days are the amazing acting performances of Winston Duke, Zazie Betz and Benedict Wong. The trio all deliver powerful performances and the scenes that they share together are truly striking.
Nine Days is a stunning visual film with a deep conscience. This film will make you cry, it will make you a laugh, but above all – it will make you think about just how precious life really is.