Nine Days (M) - 129 minutes
Life with all its pleasure and heartbreak is the stock in trade for an intermediary who is no longer an earthly entity.
He now determines who will and won’t get the chance to enter the world and thereafter have all their experiences – warts and all – monitored.
His name is Will (Winston Duke) and he used to exist, although his inherent decency didn’t hold him in good stead.
Now he interviews “prospects” for possible earthly appearance and although he doesn’t tell them what he is looking for, it soon becomes clear that resilience is high on that list.
Aiding him is Kyo (Benedict Wong), who has never “lived” in the conventional sense of that word.
He is well aware of the bumps along the way that Will has experienced and recognises that the ultimate choice or choices are Will’s domain and Will’s alone.
The title, Nine Days, refers to the time period for decision making, with either a thumbs up or a thumbs down given within that time frame.
Some don’t make it beyond their initial calling, others might seem to be heading in the right direction, but will still be caught short.
In the process, they are presented with a series of moral dilemmas that Will maintains don’t have a right or wrong answer.
Still, their responses serve to inform Will regarding his impending decisions about their respective trajectory.
When the movie starts, the concentration is on an active and curious young girl, a child prodigy and brilliant violinist named Amanda who, as time progresses, is about to perform her first concerto.
There is also a focus on a youngster who is bullied mercilessly.
Will spends countless hours monitoring (and video recording) them, and others he has chosen, on a bank of television screens, without the prospect of intervening in their earthly lives.
He subsequently starts a new phase of interviews, with an initial batch of adult contenders whittled down to five.
Among them is the pragmatic Kane (Bill Skarsgard) and the empathetic Emma (Zazie Beetz), who clearly has special attributes.
Will does all his work from an isolated home, within walking distance of a tip, rubbish from which he salvages and turns into memories.
Nine Days is big on retaining the mystery of what is going down.
Our minds are working overtime to try to figure it all out.
It is hardly a conventional narrative, far more of a brain teaser, which calls into question the meaning and purpose of life.
The sensitive score adds to the mood and tone of the piece.
The characterisations ring true throughout.
Duke is excellent as the movie’s centrepiece, who clearly has his struggles.
Wong, too, impresses as his more exuberant sidekick, whose character recognises his own limitations.
Beetz brings a joie de vivre and sense of promise to her representation of Emma.
She is the light in an ever-increasing sense of inevitability and despair.
Nine Days is a poetic, lyrical and thought-provoking fantasy.
Written and directed by Edson Oda, in what is his stunning debut feature, it is a well-crafted, cerebral film with a decided point of difference.
Rated M, it scores an 8 out of 10.