For this week’s Movie Minutes, KUNR entertainment reviewer Robin Holabird looks at a film that explores deep questions about existence.
Nine Days modifies a Twilight Zone-ish dimension explored last year in Pixar’s Soul. But, unlike the animated zone, Nine Days presents a live-action world where souls compete for the chance to live as humans. They spend the title nine days with a former human who determines which one wins life on earth.
He acts as sole judge, a pun since you can spell it to mean “single” or “spirit”, and either one of those descriptions works. Played by Winston Duke from Black Panther and Us, the judge works in a retro area full of outdated video units and screens, with interior set design that evokes unsettled sensations of recognition, familiarity and loss. From the outside, an old-fashioned, tidy wooden home stands alone against the backdrop of a massive expanse of dry lakebed — Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats for those who like desolate locations.
All of these visuals work in conjunction with director Edson Oda’s feature debut that explores existential ideas. Purposefully paced slowly and laden with dialogue, the movie poses questions worth pondering and offers valid observations along the way. Many of these ideas come well delivered by familiar-looking cast members like Benedict Wong from Dr. Strange and Zazie Beetz of television’s Atlanta. Oh, and Bill Skarsgard, tough to recognize from It since he played Pennywise the clown.
Still, the powerhouse moment goes to star Winston Duke, who gets an actor’s dream scene toward the end with a powerful rendition of Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself.” The choice beautifully suits the film’s ideas and artistic sensibility.
Nine Days premiered at Sundance and is in theaters beginning this weekend.
Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can hear all of her reviews here.