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Be Reborn With ‘Nine Days’ (Review)

In a house planted seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Will (Winston Duke, “Black Panther”) leads a mostly solitary existence.

For the majority of each day, he faces a wall of televisions and VCRs watching life through the eyes of others. He takes extensive notes, recording key moments and tucking memories into filing cabinets. Will’s job, as it were, is to interview unborn souls to determine if they’re worthy of life on Earth. Presumably he is one of many tasked with this work, although we only meet a few others like him. He is quick to point out that he once was a human and so he knows what to look for.

Unexpectedly, the point of view on one of his sets goes dark. He tragically loses a soul in an accident who was very meaningful to him. Replacing her won’t be an easy task.

This, in a very thin nutshell, is the story of “Nine Days.” Writer and director Edson Oda’s debut feature builds a unique world that is at once frustrating and breathtaking. We aren’t spoon-fed information here, there’s just enough there to support the overall concept without a lot of…why?

As Will conducts his interview process, we meet several hopeful candidates who are given an opportunity to shine even if they don’t fully understand the magnitude of the situation.

Zazie Beetz (“Joker”) is quite remarkable in her performance as Emma. She frustrates and excites Will because she just doesn’t buy into his methods or reasoning. As she observes the process, she becomes less cooperative than the others who are really hoping to take their place on Earth.

It’s science fiction. It’s existential drama. It’s comes across in many respects like a stage play. The meaning behind it may vary depending on your background and belief system. It’s resolutely sharp but somehow also purposefully vague. And I think that’s why it all works so well.

The supporting cast includes strong work from Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Bill Skarsgård, David Rysdahl, and Arianna Ortiz. It’s a brilliant ensemble piece and one of the most unique independent films in recent memory.

It’s been a long road to release after first appearing at Sundance 2020. It was scheduled to come out last year and then Sony Classics delayed it so they could give it a theatrical push. In the meantime, it was nominated for Best First Feature and Wong was nominated Best Supporting Male at the Independent Spirit Awards on the strength of its festival play. And now, as the Delta variant ravages the country, the film has finally found its release date – only in theaters. It’s ironic and has to be more than a little disappointing for the creative team behind the film.

Nine Days” is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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STARRING:Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Bill Skarsgård, David Rysdahl, Arianna Ortiz

SELECTIONS:Sundance Film Festival

SYNOPSIS:Will (Winston Duke) spends his days in a remote outpost watching the live Point of View (POV) on TV’s of people going about their lives, until one subject perishes, leaving a vacancy for a new life on earth. Soon, several candidates — unborn souls — arrive at Will’s to undergo tests determining their fitness, facing oblivion when they are deemed unsuitable. But Will soon faces his own existential challenge in the form of free-spirited Emma (Zazie Beetz), a candidate who is not like the others, forcing him to turn within and reckon with his own tumultuous past. Fueled by unexpected power, he discovers a bold new path forward in his own life. Making his feature-film debut after a series of highly acclaimed and award-winning short films and music videos, Japanese Brazilian director Edson Oda delivers a heartfelt and meditative vision of human souls in limbo, aching to be born against unimaginable odds, yet hindered by forces beyond their will…

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