To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Nine Days is a supernatural drama film written and directed by Edson Oda. It stars Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, Bill Skarsgård, David Rysdahl, and Arianna Ortiz. The story follows Will, an intermediary being who judges souls before they can inhabit bodies on the Earth. After his favorite selection Amanda, a 28-year-old violin prodigy, dies in a car crash, Will interviews five unborn souls to determine which one will take her place.
Nine Days is an ambitious film that begs to answer the question of what happens before we are born. What makes a soul a soul and how does a person become the person who they are? This movie does not bother with any particular religion and only acknowledges that souls exist before you are born. While all these questions are very interesting the film does not answer where these souls come from. According to the film, the soul does not inhabit the body until right around the time of birth. They are chosen via a bureaucratic system where an interviewer asks the soul random questions over nine days and judges their responses. We are never given answers as to why these souls don’t get to remember their time before birth or why they appear as full-grown adults in pre-life. There’s also the fact that interviewers can be souls that have already lived and died. We never see the influx of dead souls come back to this desert landscape or how many interviewers there are. The only solid information that we get about interviewers is that they choose which souls are born and study every moment of their life and take notes. We never find out why this is done or who the notes are for.
The film does have an interesting set design showing that the lives of the souls are watched from their points of view on tube televisions stacked on top of each other with VHS tapes used to record them. Most of the film takes place in a single house in the middle of a desert that we see does cycle between day and night. Unfortunately, since we do not know more about this world, none of this is interesting to look at or ponder. Edson Oda is more concerned with being artsy and having great actors than having a great story. Just having an interesting premise with good actors attached is not enough to drive an entire film. Since the story is very thin a shorter running time of an hour and a half may have helped. It goes on for over two hours and you can feel that time-draining you after a while.
This film, however, does have excellent actors who turn in great performances. Winston Duke shines as Will the interviewer. While he’s picking a new soul you can feel that he is truly upset about the loss of his prized selection, Amanda. It turns out he missed something that would have made her death less abrupt for him. This is a bit weird because he watches every second of her life when she’s awake and it is impossible he would have missed it. The viewer also finds out that Will is one of the very few interviewers and only interview that we meet who has lived a life on earth. He is coming to terms with a crisis of faith in how he chooses souls. He decides to choose souls that are like him and Amanda are too joyful, empathetic, and soft. The world is a harsh place and he feels that other interviewers are picking souls that will “eat his soul alive” in the real world. Zazie Beetz also turns in a great performance as the new soul Emma. She is very empathetic and very loving. She butts heads with Will because she just can’t answer his questions without more context to the situations he is putting her in. In her mind being in the situation changes how you would react versus just answering a question blindly. Overall, she is fairly unconcerned with being chosen and more interested in the process. You can see that Will is frustrated by this but also interested in how she is different than the others. The stand-out for the film though is Bill Skarsgård. His character Kane is very much the soul of what I would consider a superhero. He strongly dislikes inaction by the peoples’ lives he’s watching on television screens. He does not want to cause violence or harm to others but he’s not one to let the violence continue to happen against other people. He does have some sarcastic tendencies and slight anger issues but he asks the correct questions and gives honest answers. In terms of Will’s new views on what type of souls Earth needs, Kane represents it perfectly.
If we were given more answers to what was going on in this world, I certainly feel this would have been a better film. But unfortunately, once you get to the end it feels like an utter waste of time. I give Nine Days a Bad 3.5/10. Edson Oda may have a bright future ahead of him as a writer and director if he can execute his visions better than in this film.