Film Review - Nine Days (2021)

Still image of Will and Emma facing the sunset.

There are few things in this world that are pondered more than life after death, but what about life before life? Who are we before we exist here and now? Nine Days is an incredible narrative that contemplates these questions and plays with the idea that our souls exist before we do in this corporeal form.

In some unknown dimension or reality Will works as an interviewer who selects which new souls get to be born and he monitors their entire life, through their eyes, via TV sets in his living room.  After the tragic and sudden death of Amanda, one of his prior selections, Will has a spot to fill. Individuals start to arrive at his door step to begin an interview process that will help him determine who is the best choice to fill the vacancy. These new souls have nine days to prove themselves worthy and each one of them performs very differently throughout the process.

“You are being considered for the amazing opportunity of life. If after this process you are selected you will have the chance to be born in a fruitful environment.”

While Will is evaluating each candidate he is also fraught by the death of Amanda and becomes obsessed with trying to understand why she died. She was a young violin prodigy who seemed emotionally strong, fearless, and joyful, or at least that’s what Will saw as he observed her life. Right before Amanda’s big concerto she crashes her car into a bridge, ending her life. Will becomes all consumed with trying to understand what went wrong.

Will’s counterpart Kyo, whose primary job is to ensure that he makes a good selection, is troubled by Will’s distress. It’s clear that Will sees his relationship with Kyo as one of a ‘strictly business sense’, but Kyo sees him as a friend.  As Will is wrapping up his day one soul arrives late but Will is not interested in interviewing someone who is so tardy. It’s Kyo that nudges Will to give Emma a chance. She’s incredibly different from the rest. She’s intuitive, curious, and doesn’t want to play by Will’s rules. She appears to be the ideal candidate but Will seems to have already counted her out since she arrived late. It’s also at this moment we learn that interviewers must have lived before and there’s something about Will’s previous life that still haunts him.

The selection process continues for eight more days and one by one the candidates who are not chosen will cease to exist by the end of each day. Before they go Will gives them an opportunity to experience one of their favourite moments from the lives they observed in Will’s living room. He recreates these experiences and stays with the souls until they are gone. It’s a beautiful gift that he gives them. He shows a deep empathy for each individual soul, which no other interviewer is known to do for their candidates. From the sidelines Emma gets to observe these last experiences and in turn learns more about her deeply troubled interviewer. There’s something different about Will, he puts on a tough exterior in his interview style but at his core he’s really a sweet, sensitive person. In the end, it’s Emma who ends up giving Will a gift he will never forget.

With my film reviews I don’t typically comment on the actors, as I prefer to focus on the stories, but I have to mention the performances in Nine Days. Winston Duke portrays Will with such depth, complexity and authenticity. I was absolutely blown away by his performance. He’s a fairly new actor, with just fifteen credits on IMDB, but I see his future in Hollywood as blindingly bright. Zazie Beetz as Emma is also outstanding. She portrayed Emma so perfectly as this daring, brave and unique soul who sees all of the beauty in life. Emma could have been played as a childish, mischievous brat but Zazie brought a gentleness, innocence, and warmth to the character that is so genuinely endearing.  

Nine Days is an incredibly beautiful and powerful story. It reminded me of the author Ursula K Le Guin and her fantasy novels that also make you contemplate life and all the questions around our existence. What is this thing we call life but what we make of it? Nine Days is also a gentle reminder to not take the beautiful moments for granted. 

Nine Days will be available on DVD and digital November 2.

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