‘Nine Days’ is about as life-affirming a movie as there can be

Aug 6, 2021, 12:26 PM

Nine days to live. That’s the premise of this new, refreshingly original movie called Nine Days.

But that premise is not what you think. It’s not about having nine days to live. It’s about having nine days to find out if you get a chance to live at all, a chance to be born. How’s that for an intriguing premise?

‘Stillwater’ does not run deep enough

The set-up is mysterious. A man is in a house in the middle of what seems like a desert or a deserted beach. He sits in a room watching a couple dozen TV screens. The screens are all showing different first-person points-of-view of seemingly random events in daily life. The man watching all these screens occasionally pops in a new old-fashioned VHS tape to record these non-stop goings-on.

One of these screens shows the ongoing life of someone named Amanda. Amanda is a young woman who plays the violin. Shortly after a big performance, Amanda crashes her car into a bridge pillar and unexpectedly dies. The man in the house is distraught, but soon after, he begins a series of interviews with a handful of prospective replacements for Amanda.

He explains to them that he will choose one of them for “the amazing opportunity for life.” Over the course of nine days, the man in the house, whose name we find out is Will, will ask each of these unborn souls a series of tough ethical questions to which there are no right or wrong answers, he says. He then instructs them to watch the TV screens for a prescribed amount of time each day and write down anything they see that they particularly like.

Each of the candidates desperately wants the chance to become alive, but Will assures them there’s nothing they can do to influence his decision. Just follow his instructions, he says.

The movie mostly consists of how the prospective clients respond to what they see on screen and how they respond if and when they’re not chosen for life. The film also shifts its focus ever so gradually to Will himself.

Nine Days is a rich, somber, moody work of art. At one point, an applicant laughs nervously at one of Will’s questions: “This is heavy s—. Why can’t we relax? Everything’s so serious,” he notes, uncomfortably. Moviegoers might feel similarly about this film. It definitely weighs on you. There’s a sense of impending doom throughout.

But at the same time, this is about as life-affirming a movie as there can be. Every so often, the candidates break through their nagging fears and desperation, and experience, ever so briefly, moments of joy, or resolve, or pleasure, or indignation, or simple acceptance. Those moments have great resonance. Their time at the house can be worthwhile no matter how it ends.

It turns out you can live a lifetime in nine days.

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‘Nine Days’ is about as life-affirming a movie as there can be