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Take a journey across existence in "Nine Days"

Obviously, this has been a bizarre year for movies so far, with some blockbusters going directly to streaming, some doing a hybrid of streaming and theatrical releasing and some just fizzling out right in the theater. Regardless of how they were released, most of the movies to come out this year have been pretty disappointing, with some just not living up to the hype ("Suicide Squad") and some feeling like they just came out too late ("Black Widow").

Pretty underwhelming—that is, until this week when I saw the unassuming, barely marketed movie, "Nine Days." Other films like "The Green Knight" and "Pig" have been excellent this year, but "Nine Days" feels like a cascade of beauty flowing across your brain. It's the kind of movie that reminds me why I want to write about cinema in the first place: not to critique films, but to discuss them in ways that help expand our own artistic muscles and impulses. "Nine Days" is a masterpiece, plain and simple, and now that I've watched it three times, I can only think about when I get to see it again.

Find the meaning of life in "Nine Days." - COURTESY OF SONY
  • Courtesy of Sony
  • Find the meaning of life in "Nine Days."

The film tells the story of Will (perfectly played by the fiercely vulnerable Winston Duke), a self-described cog in the wheel of a strange and miraculous bureaucracy. Will lives in a deceptively small house out in the desert, watching and recording a series of televisions that are showing him the lives of people existing on Earth. The house is a waystation between existence and non-existence and Will interviews brand-new souls over a period of nine days, and whoever he chooses is then born and gets to live life on Earth. The TVs show him the lives of the men and women he's chosen before, and whenever a TV blinks out after someone dies, people start coming to his house to be interviewed to fill the slot.

That's the movie: Will talking to a small group of people over nine days as he decides which one of the people is the kind of human that would do well on Earth. With actors including Tony Hale, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong and Bill Skarsgard, "Nine Days" is packed with faces and voices that carry so much depth, so we get to imagine along with Will what kind of people they would make.

It sounds like such a simple premise, but "Nine Days" is about absolutely everything. Thematically, the film is dealing with ideas such as what it takes to be a good person and whether the planet is made stronger by childlike enthusiasm or distrustful strength. Written and shot impeccably by director Edson Oda, "Nine Days" feels like a movie that Bergman would have made eventually, or a spiritual sequel to Hirokazu Kore-eda's masterpiece "After Life."

"Nine Days" is the kind of movie that inspires conversation, not only with your film-going buddies, but with yourself. But it's not just a think-piece of a movie. Oda has a real story to tell, filled with unforgettable characters, absolutely breathtaking moments of beauty and truly remarkable performances. This isn't just the best movie I've seen in 2021 so far, but one of the best I've seen in a few years. Even if this is the last great movie we get this year, it will be memorable just for giving us the gift of "Nine Days."

Nine Days
Dir. Edson Oda
Grade: A+
Now Playing at Tin Pan Theater

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