Film Review: Nine Days
It wasn't a very crowded theater, and that may either be to Covid or that the film is in limited release (I'm fully vaccinated), but I went to see Edson Oda's Nine Days on Sunday night and I'd like to provide a spoiler-free review.
First of all, unless you have read Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, some of this film will be lost on you. I loved the way it was shot, mainly because it, like other films in the past about the afterlife, is so abstract in content. I think this is the first film I've ever seen which is not discussing the afterlife, but the "pre-life", I suppose. The premise is that there are a number of souls who are vying for a spot in the body of a new human and one man (Winston Duke), a person who "lived once" has to judge which one is given that privilege.
The abstract nature of the film is what is so striking, and at first you are not really sure what is going on or where it is taking place, but soon you settle in to the experience. Oda is a brilliant film maker, as the imagery is indeed beautiful. The muted color palate is filled with browns and dark grays. The pre-life is kind of a sad place, and Will (Winston Duke) takes his job seriously. He is aided by Kyo (Benedict Wong) another soul who was never "born", who must agree with Will's choice.
As a writer, I will not comment on the striking way this story was filmed, but I will instead look at the many references to Walt Whitman's poetry. At the end of the film there is a significant section of Leaves of Grass recited masterfully by Winston Duke, performed so well, in fact that I literally got goosebumps. The poem brings the entire film into perspective, and made me think about what Whitman was expressing to us about life, death, and the meaning of it all.
"Look for me under your boot soles." Indeed, the film is exploring not just the meaning of life, but examining closely the idea of what it means to have a life in the first place. It takes a very abstract idea that goes well beyond the simple concept of "not taking things for granted". The writing is masterful, exploring the concept of what it means to live not just mundanely but meaningfully.
I'm sure all the English teachers out there will get a thrill from this movie (speaking for myself) but anyone else who is needing more from a film than just another action ride or romance will find something wonderful. Much of the film is sweet and wondrous. It is indeed a joy to see a filmmaker dive deep into the waters of abstract thought. You should go for a swim there, too.