The story begins on Louis Drax's 9th birthday, when a lifetime of curious mishaps culminates in the boy's near-fatal fall. Desperate to reveal the strange circumstances behind the young boy's accident and dark coincidences that have plagued his entire life, Dr. Allan Pascal (Dornan) is drawn into a thrilling mystery that explores the nature of the sixth sense, testing the boundaries of fantasy and reality. Written by
A unique, interesting and subversive amalgamation of genres that suffers from some narrative issues and tonal fluctuations.
'The 9th Life Of Louis Drax' is the latest film directed by Alexandre Aja, who is most known for his 'The Hills Have Eyes' remake and the recent Daniel Radcliffe vehicle 'Horns'. This movie is fairly hard to describe, as it is a mixture of several genres that features a few twists and turns that I don't want to spoil. The basics of the plot revolves around the eponymous Louis Drax, a nine year-old boy who suffers a near-fatal fall and is left in a coma, and the doctor assigned to his case. I really liked it, despite the fact that it is flawed and by no means perfect, so I can't understand the relatively negative critical reception; I found it to be unique, subversive, interesting and emotionally-powerful.
The flick does wildly fluctuate in tone throughout its run-time, 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 is 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. I found this amalgamation of genres to be intriguing, as I was never quite sure where the story was going to go. I also mostly appreciated the tonal shifts which, aside from sometimes feeling clumsy and out-of-place, made for a subversive yet cohesive piece that was much more unique than it may first have seemed. What doesn't work to the film's advantage however, is its constant changes in perspective. These were often jarring and felt undisciplined; it is hard to determine who the protagonist is, Louis Drax or Doctor Pascal. The fact that the story flipped between their two perspectives is fine, but the execution is fumbling and chaotic at best – the two aren't split equally, and thus it begins to seem out-of-place when the swap happens. In the same vein, some of the surreal elements bleed a little too closely into the portrayed reality – it is sometimes unclear what is fantastical and what is real. This is isn't a huge issue, and it often works to the flick's advantage, but 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 they were coming from, a number of little details earlier in the picture attempted 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, I just wish they had planted the seed for it better so that it is 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 a little extra moment to compound and punctuate them properly. Other than those issues, I found all of the twists and turns to work well; some of them were more expected than others, but all of them felt 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 competent the second once the whole picture has been revealed. By the time the final act rolled around, I'll admit I was gripped and on the edge of my seat – I truly wanted to know what was going to happen. When the revelations are made, I thought that they were mostly satisfying and appropriately surprising – aside from the couple of issues with the consequences not being 'driven home' fully.
The performances are all good, though Jamie Dornan's character can sometimes be quite boring and is played very by-the-numbers. Oliver Platt, Sarah Gadon and Aiden Longworth are all notably great too, while Aaron Paul is downright fantastic in a complex role. A scene towards the end of the flick nearly brought me to tears, it was incredibly emotional and helped by Paul's perfect performance. It really affected me, more so than expected, and I cannot give the movie enough praise for tugging at my heart-strings – 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 was superb, a number of unique shots helped to 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 handled very well, with practical and digital effects being used in tandem, and the pacing was pretty taut– though it feels a little longer than it should on the whole.
Overall, I think 'The 9th Life Of Louis Drax' 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 liked the feature despite the fact that it is far from perfect: 7/10
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