What if you had to audition for your own life before being born? “A film of dizzying conceptual ambition – No Exit meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” — Variety
We are born, we live, we die. Before we can get on that particular merry-go-round, however, we must first be interviewed. The interrogator is tall, quiet, fastidious, well-dressed. Small granny spectacles perch on his nose as he asks questions of those who sit before him. And when he’s not doing that, he’s reviewing former ‘vacancies’ he has filled, watching on a bank of monitors displaying numerous lives in progress.
If we are lucky, we are chosen to go forth, from cradle to grave. If not, perhaps the man will do what he can to give us one fleeting moment of happiness, before we disappear into the ether.
This is the premise of Nine Days, Edson Oda’s odd, affecting portrait of a pre-life purgatory, a cross between a Gondry-esque chin-stroker and a Zen Buddhist tweak on The Good Place ... Japanese Brazilian filmmaker with a background in commercials, Oda is taking big philosophical swings with his debut: What is the nature of souls? Is a life something to be earned rather than gifted? Does the beauty of being human outweigh the pain of existence, or do these two elements symbiotically feed off each other, yin to yang? Who are we, before we are anything at all?
It’s heavy, heady stuff, coming at you via a delivery system of catalogue-worthy set design, magic-hour cinematography, and often tamped-down, deadpan performances. And somehow, it all works in harmony to create a ripple effect of feeling that reverberates strongly under its placid surface.
David Fear, Rolling Stone, 1/8/21