Blu-ray Review: The 9th Life of Louis Drax

By , Contributor
The 9th Life of Louis Drax is a quirk-fest directed by Alexandre Aja (the highly underrated Horns) that mostly bypassed theaters in 2016. Never mind the awful mouthful of a title (shared by the Liz Jensen's source novel). Though it sometimes feels derivative (borrowing stylistic elements from Hitchcock, David Lynch, and M. Night Shyamalan), 9th Life is a solid piece of storytelling. It's available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD on February 7.

It starts off like a slightly twisted kids' flick, with young Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) sharing his many near-death experiences. "Accident prone" is how Louis describes his life, but some might go so far as to say he's cursed. This kid has survived lots of terrible accidents and it has shaped his personality. Longworth delivers one of the most original performances by a child actor in years, shading his line readings with layers of ambiguity. Most of Louis' life is surveyed via flashback, seeing as he's in a coma at the outset. He somehow fell off a scarily high cliff into rocky waters. How this accident happened serves as the engine that drives the plot. 
 
9th life of louis drax 1.jpg Due to his turmoil-filled life Louis sees a therapist, Dr. Perez (Oliver Platt, receiving too little screen time), who seems continuously perplexed by his curious young patient. Louis parents are a huge part of the mystery and the subject of many of Dr. Perez's questions. Louis' mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) lives in a state of constant worry over what might befall her son next. Little details reveal her to be something of an unstable, untruthful oddball (Gadon plays it expertly). Meanwhile, father Peter (Aaron Paul) is missing following the cliff accident—and is suspected of having something to do with Louis' near-fatal fall.

Dr. Pascal (Jamie Dornan) takes a special interest in Louis' case. He believes that patients in a comatose state can still be reached, so he devotes an inordinate amount of time to communicating with Louis at his bedside. If all of this seems vague, that's because 9th Life hinges on a series of twists (some of which are admittedly not that difficult to figure out) that excessive plot discussion will certainly spoil. Director Aja manages to sustain an air of dream-like ambiance throughout, employing visual techniques that drift into the surreal (including a bizarre monster who haunts Louis). Especially during the third act, some of the supernatural-themed plot turns are difficult to swallow. Still, the otherworldly atmosphere maintained by Aja helps smooth over some of the more outré elements. The 9th Life of Louis Drax is an strange, not entirely satisfying, yet undeniably watchable obscurity.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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