“Good memories, bad memories, they’re all just the same right now. It still hurts…”Will
Japanese Brazilian writer-director Edson Oda has a bold and distinctive voice in his debut feature, a contemplative piece about the nature of living as a human. In an isolated house on a beach, a fastidious man named Will interviews souls for a chance at life on Earth, his living room filled with a wall of CRT televisions screens showing real-time first-person perspectives of those he previously selected. It is the ultimate cinematic contrivance to experience others’ lives through an audiovisual medium, but the archaic technology (Will also records and rewatches his favourite moments on VHS tapes) assists in crafting an otherworldly suspension of disbelief. The primary issue with Nine Days’ conceit is that souls without the experience of life cannot provide meaningful answers to Will’s questions; rather, the selection process is background noise to illustrate Will’s own thought processes — hurt by his own life experience, he seeks those tougher and less sensitive than himself — whilst not really engaging with the inherent cruelty of judging others’ right to live. Winston Duke’s performance radiates the quiet pain of a man hurt by life and unable to forgive himself for perceived failure. However, it is Zazie Beetz that draws in the audience with her intriguing portrayal of a new soul — guileless, and yet intuitively understanding life. Nine Days is likely to strike a chord with certain viewers who find their worldview affected. I found no such profundity, but I would be very content to experience further meditations that Oda may wish to design.