A psychologist who begins working with a young boy who has suffered a near-fatal fall finds himself drawn into a mystery that tests the boundaries of fantasy and reality.A psychologist who begins working with a young boy who has suffered a near-fatal fall finds himself drawn into a mystery that tests the boundaries of fantasy and reality.A psychologist who begins working with a young boy who has suffered a near-fatal fall finds himself drawn into a mystery that tests the boundaries of fantasy and reality.
The flick does wildly fluctuate in tone throughout its runtime, a flaw which does lend it some unpredictability and therefore can sometimes work to its advantage. One moment it is light and comedic, the next it is dark and gloomy. It's at times a comedy, a quirky indie-film, a family drama, a surrealist fantasy, a mystery 'whodunit', a more traditional horror and a psychological thriller. This amalgamation of genres is intriguing, leaving you never quite sure where the story is going to go. I also mostly appreciate the tonal shifts which, aside from sometimes feeling clumsy and out of place, make for a subversive yet cohesive piece that is much more unique than it may first seem. What doesn't work to the film's advantage, however, is its constant changes in perspective. These are often jarring and feel undisciplined; it is hard to determine who the protagonist is, Louis Drax or Doctor Pascal. The fact that the story flips between their two perspectives is fine, but the execution is fumbling and chaotic at best. The two aren't split equally, so it seems out of place when the swap happens. In the same vein, some of the flick's surreal elements bleed a little too closely into its portrayed reality; it's sometimes unclear what is fantastical and what is real. This is isn't a huge issue and it actually often works to the flick's advantage, but the picture can feel inconsistent in its portrayal and almost 'cheats' the audience at points.
The final act relies on a central conceit that requires quite a big leap in logic, leading to an aftertaste of mild confusion. I understand where the filmmakers were coming from, as a number of little details earlier in the picture attempt to establish it, but it isn't set up properly and becomes a little unbelievable. In the moment it works, though, and I thought it was a nice way of cleaning things up. Still, I wish the filmmakers had planted the seed for it better so that it's easier to get on board with. The actual conclusion feels a little flat in places, too, with some specific revelations not having the impact they should. These plot-lines could've done with an extra moment or two to compound and punctuate them properly. Other than that, the twists and turns generally work well. Some of them are more expected than others, but all of them feel plausible and earned. The film does a good job of making sense to both a first and second time viewer, with scenes showing just enough to perpetuate the 'red herrings' the first time but still remain logical once the whole picture has been revealed. By the time the final act rolls around, I the movie is actually rather gripping; you truly want to know what is going to happen. When the revelations are made, they're mostly satisfying and appropriately surprising - aside from the couple of issues with their consequences not being fully driven home.
The performances are all good, though Jamie Dornan's character can sometimes be quite boring and is played rather generically. Oliver Platt, Sarah Gadon and Aiden Longworth are all notably great, too, and Aaron Paul is downright fantastic in a complex role. A scene towards the end of the flick nearly provokes tears, as it's incredibly emotional and compounded by Paul's perfect performance. It's really affecting, more so than expected, and I cannot give the movie enough praise for tugging at my heartstrings - a rare feat for a film. The writing is mostly decent, though there are some obviously bad lines - both in their construction, repetition and generic nature - as well as the occasional exposition dump and leap in logic. The direction is superb, with a number of unique shots that add to the flick's quirky nature. The feature is framed cleanly, the edits are smooth and the blocking varies healthily. The fantastical elements are typically handled very well, with practical and digital effects being used in tandem, and the pacing is pretty taut - though it feels a little longer than it should on the whole.
Overall, I think 'The 9th Life Of Louis Drax (2016)' is an entertaining and well made film. It's subversive, surprising, engaging, interesting, emotionally powerful, unique and fun. It also has some great performances. It does suffer from occasional tonal and structural issues, narrative leaps in logic and some weak writing, but I still like the feature despite the fact that it's certainly far from perfect: 7/10.
- Sep 7, 2016