No one would blame you for entering the movie, “Nine Days,” based on the cast alone because it is a fine cast, headed up with Winston Duke (“Black Panther,” “Us”) Zazie Beetz (“Atlanta” TV, series, “Joker”) Benedict Wong (“Dr. Strange”) and Tony Hale (“VEEP” TV series). Likewise for the cinematography because Wyatt Garfield has created a stark, yet beautiful work of art within a very narrow landscape and a limited set. But stay for the film’s themes, creative premise and effective, moody aesthetic.
“Nine Days” is a story of a somewhat nerdy and definitely reclusive man named Will, who is tasked with selecting one fortunate soul to be born and begin his or hers new earthly existence. There are five souls (in adult human form) vying for the coveted opportunity and being taken through a rigorous interview process and tests conducted by Will and his assistant, Kyo. Part of the process includes watching video of already existing humans navigating through life’s challenges and triumphs. Afterwards, Will fires questions at the “contestants” based on what they viewed, and establishes a series of hypothetical scenarios. Each of them have varying personalities and responses. One in particular, Emma (Beetz), continuously perplexes Will. In the end, the one chosen will be rewarded with an opportunity to become a newborn in the real world, while the others will cease to exist. It’s like purgatory in reverse.
Is “Nine Days” highly existential and metaphorical? Yes, indeed, but not annoyingly so or without merit. These such elements that can distract and detract from many films, our finely reigned in here, thanks in large part to a well constructed script by writer-director Edson Oda, and compelling performances by the ensemble cast. This heady, fantasy-like fare was no doubt a risk for a first-time director. Although is quiet and slow, and sometimes does not consistently hold your attention, a character or a carefully crafted and delivered line draws you back in. “Nine Days”is also wildly imaginative and quirky in some of the best ways possible. Oda clearly does not believe in playing it safe and the risk paid off in this thought provoking, life affirming film about life, death and something in between.