The Sundance darling “Nine Days,” written and directed by Edson Oda, begins by asking “What makes someone worthy of life?” and ends the film by asking “What makes life worth living?”
The film introduces us to Will, played by Winston Duke, a surveyor of life who has the job of choosing new lives and then documenting their progress after being chosen. After one of Will’s choices comes to a tragic end, six potential new souls enter the fray. Each of these potential new lives have their own personalities and points of view, despite being just a few hours old. They go through a series of tests, designed by Will, and try to make the case that they are worthy of this wonderful prize.
Gorgeously shot by Wyatt Garfield, “Nine Days” is a feast for the eyes. Garfield takes the true beauty and desolation of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and brings it to the big screen. Most of the film takes place in an old house, yet Garfield takes the pallet of yellows and greens and continually composes fresh looks.
The cast is spot on.
Duke is a force as the leading role. With Duke’s size, Will appears to be an imposing character, but through the course of the film, that façade is worn away, and Duke gives us heartbreaking glimpses of a broken young man.
Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgard, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl and Arianna Ortiz play the hopeful souls who are competing against one another for life. Hale had many great moments and Beetz was affecting as the rebellious Emma, but it was Benedict Wong, playing Will’s “co-worker” Kyo, who stole the show.
Wong not only brought levity to the film with true laugh-out-loud moments but was also an effective screen partner for Duke, allowing us those opportunities to look inside his tortured character.
Oda did a marvelous job bringing his vision to life. With few moments of exposition declaring exactly what is going on in the film, Oda gives you enough to chew on to understand this strange world. He also allows his characters to flourish and grow in just nine days—and fewer for some.
There are a few questions that leave you puzzled; however, if you can suspend disbelief for the film’s 124 minutes, you can have a unique experience that will allow you to leave the theater with a reaffirmation for life.