‘NINE DAYS’ Review | An Extraordinary Meditation on Life and Perspective

Imagine if you were tasked with selecting which individuals would get the privilege of being born and living an earthly life?  How would you choose?  Would you gravitate towards candidates who are sensitive?  Sympathetic?  Pure of heart?  Or would you take a more pragmatic approach and focus on those who might be tough enough to endure life’s hardships?  Is life even really a gift?  Or is it more of a gauntlet of individuals struggling to survive?  These are just some of the questions posed to us in this wonderfully crafted thought experiment/film – Nine Days.

Will (Winston Duke) exists in a house in the middle of a vast, flat landscape presumably outside of earthly reality.  In this house, there is a room with roughly thirty or so televisions, each of which depicts the life of an earthly resident as seen through their eyes.   These are the people Will has chosen to be born into life.  When he witnesses one of those lives, that of a young and talented woman, come to a sudden and tragic end, Will is emotionally shaken.  Yet, in the wake of this woman’s death, there is now a vacancy.  A handful of candidate souls arrive, and it’s Will’s job to put them through a nine-day interview process and determine the best candidate to fill the position.  Will has a friend/coworker Kyo (Benedict Wong) with whom he consoles.  However, only Will can make the final decision because he was once alive while Kyo was not.  Will is mostly candid about his former life but as the film progresses one of the candidates Emma (Zazie Beetz) coaxes out some meaningful details.  Ultimately, the candidate chosen will be born anew on earth with no memory of this process.  Those not chosen will cease to exist.  

Edson Oda, movie review, Nine Days, Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz

Of all the mysteries present, it’s that of Will which most drives this story.  The candidates serve as the audience surrogate as we’re left struggling to discern the purpose behind Will’s tasks and what qualities he’s testing for.  It’s a puzzle the audience gets to piece together as he begins to eliminate candidates and reveal more about himself.  A brilliantly written script by first-time writer and director Edson Oda keeps this story wonderfully unpredictable.  The mystery is also exceptionally enriched by Winston Duke’s mesmerizing performance.  Being that his first and breakthrough performance in cinema was playing M’Baku in Black Panther, Duke’s still a newcomer to Hollywood.  However, the acting finesse he displayed there and continues to bring to the table demonstrates he’s not just as masterful as any veteran but has a unique and awe-inspiring talent all his own.      

Much of Nine Days has a dark and sometimes comedic irony to it. The people’s lives Will and the candidates view through the televisions are often arduous and tragic.  Many of the tasks Will has them perform involve confronting the ugliness of humanity.  Yet, the chance to experience all this is still highly coveted by the candidates and the fear of not being chosen is immense.  As the film progresses this darkly ironic portrait also serves as a canvas through which many subtle and sometimes overlooked joys of life are interwoven. Yet, Nine Days isn’t looking to drive home trivial platitudes about looking at the bright side of life. Rather it’s embracing life’s contradictions, both through the interview process and through Will himself.

Some may feel Nine Days embraces its mystery a bit too much. It’s asking us to set aside the many metaphysical questions raised by the premise and just go along for the ride. Mostly, I think this was a good narrative choice as it allows the film to focus more on its meaningful themes and less on superfluous logistics. However, a bit more insight might have helped the lingering wonderment be a bit less distracting. Personally, I think there is something to be said for leaving certain things to the imagination. Others might find this more bothersome than I but, for a film of this nature, I don’t feel like this detracts much.

Nine Days is an emotional ride that takes us through life’s absurdity and often leaves us stewing in the contradiction.  It places us in the shoes of both a candidate and Will, pressing us to contemplate these timeless questions from a perspective we never have before. There is a multitude of metaphors at play, but it’s that overarching theme of perspective to which this film keeps bringing us back.   How two people can look at the same thing and see something completely different.  Films often set out to develop, explore, and ultimately sell us on a single perspective, but the way in which Nine Days explores the concept of perspective itself makes it something truly unique and very special. It’s a beautiful meditation elevated even further by an Oscar-worthy performance from Winston Duke.

About Nine Days

Synopsis: A former earthly resident begins a nine-day interview process with prospective candidates applying for the position of “life”.

Director: Edson Oda

Writer: Edson Oda

Stars: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgård, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl, Arianna Ortiz, Geraldine Hughes, Erica Vasquez, Perry Smith

Rated: R

Run time: 2 Hours, 4 Minutes

Edson Oda, movie review, Nine Days, Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz

I am an ASU honors graduate with bachelors in Political Science and Philosophy.  I work as a Paralegal by day and enjoy casual, volunteer, and sometimes freelance writing on the side.  I'm a long time movie buff and avid gamer.  Collectible card and board games are my specialty.  I also remain actively engaged in the world of politics and like to stay up to date on all things science.  If there is one goal I have in life it is to never stop learning.

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