DVD Review: The 9th Life of Louis Drax (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Thom Compton 11.10.2017

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The 9th Life of Louis Drax (UK Rating: 15)

Many films have attempted to explore the stages of life and death, and being in a comatose state is one of the most intriguing. There's no evidence to support exactly what a coma is like, and so artists try to imagine what happens in that far away mental state. Alexander Aja, best known for films like The Hills Have Eyes, Haute Tension, and Mirrors, attempts to explore that, and much more, in this quaint dramatic thriller. Unfortunately, tries to do too many other things in the process. The 9th Life of Lous Drax is out now on DVD via Thunderbird Releasing.

Louis Drax is an accident prone young boy. At only nine years old, he's almost died at least once a year since he was born. This time, though, he fell off a cliff and is now in a comatose state. The film's best moments come from his dialogue in this state with some sort of imaginary friend/monster/hero. The dialogue delves into the nature of existence, and Louis seems to be more than capable, at his age, of holding his own in these conversations.


 
When not getting fed the meaning of life by a clumsy pre-teen, viewers are dealing with all the adults around Louis, most of which are regrettably unlikeable. While people like Peter (Aaron Paul), Fat Sanchez (Oliver Platt), and Violet (Barbara Hershey) are definitely the most relatable characters and the most enjoyable to see on screen, they all suffer from a tremendous lack of time in front of the camera.

Most of the film follows Dr. Pascal (Jamie Dornan), a typical "believer" type who sees the good in everyone he meets and believes there might be more to what happened to Louis than perhaps first announced. He's joined in that theory by a detective, Dalton (Molly Parker), whose only real job seems to be to condescendingly sneer at any comments she finds stupid. Dr. Pascal, meanwhile, follows a tradition as old as film itself - easily forgettable lead character who keeps the more memorable characters around him in perspective. He acts as a cohesive bond, bringing all of the characters together but being wildly unimpressive himself. This doesn't seem to Dornan's fault, however, but more so the fault of the script.

Oh, how wonderfully diluted and unbelievable that script is, too. It jumps from giving the audience Louis (Aiden Longworth), who delivers believable, but unlikeable lines, a good percentage of which are about how fat Fat Sanchez is, through to trying to make people believe that Pascal might be so naïve - basically, it borders on idiocy. It commits even more egregious sins, the primary of which being that most of the lines in the film, especially where Louis's mother Natalie and Dr. Pascal are concerned, are just things no one would ever say.


 
Whether they are trying to be deep and come off as insulting, or they are just plain boring, a lot of the dialogue comes off as fodder for Walmart's new line of shirts called, "Look at how profound I'm pretending to be." So much of the dialogue falls into this pattern of being unbelievable that it's almost like it's trying to make itself quotable. It's not, though, and it just comes off as if the writer has never made small talk or even extended conversation with another human being.

The 9th Life of Louis Drax is, truth be told, a profoundly boring film. While the moments spent in Dr. Sanchez's office provide a handful of laughs, intentional mind you, and Aaron Paul's position in the film is genuinely heartbreaking, most of the time is spent exploring what a nincompoop Pascal ends up being, and how irritating Natalie is. Spoiler alert, there's a sex scene that comes after a revelation that's remarkably unsexy. In fact, it's the total opposite, it's sad and gut-churning, and yet, the sex scene remains. Apparently, men are so incapable of turning down sex that they will ignore literally anything that's been said to them in the pursuit of getting it. It's insulting and Natalie is equally insulting to women, although to explain why would give away the film's unremarkable and insanely predictable conclusion.

Speaking of that conclusion, while it's very easily figured out as early as the movie's 40-minute mark, it's handled very well. It manages to maintain its focus and deliver a climatic and beautiful ending. If only the film had ended there... but it doesn't, and almost immediately jumps off the rails again to try and shock viewers. It fails to even do that, however, and induces an eye roll that's Oscar-worthy on its own.


 
The truth is that there's so much potential here that it's remarkable how wasted it all is. Aja even manages to do a great job with the shots in the film, even though they themselves aren't particularly good or bad. It's his obsession with natural lighting in a lot of the indoor scenes that frames them very well. So many of the actors are really just doing their best here, and a lot of it comes down to the very unbelievable script. Perhaps it's asking too much to want a believable dialogue in what is essentially a fantasy thriller, but it doesn't feel like it should be. It feels completely natural asking for human beings to sound like human beings.

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

Beautiful cinematography and a handful of good, yet underutilised characters, can't save The 9th Life of Louis Drax from it's terrible dialogue and largely unlikeable characters. Even the ending, which could have easily had most of its content gutted, fails to stick the landing, slipping from grace and landing sturdily on its face.

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