August 9, 2021

CINEMA | Winston Duke Reflects for 'Nine Days'

"You are being considered for the amazing opportunity of life."
Winston Duke Edson Oda | Nine Days
Sony Pictures Classics / Mongrel Media
Japanese-Brazillian filmmaker Edson Oda makes his feature debut in the sort of (pre-)existential drama, Nine Days. Winston Duke stars as an arbiter (Will) who judges a soul's worth before deciding who gets to move on to become born and live life on Earth. It's a novel high-concept conceptualized through lo-fi technology like VCRs and VHS tapes in a play-like single-location setting of what appears to be somewhere in the middle of a desert in a transitional plane of existence in the great beyond.

Co-starring Benedict Wong and Zazie Beetz as Will's assistant and a very curious soul being judged, the ambitious conceit takes place over the course of nine days where Will decides whether or not a prospect has what it takes. What follows is a series of tests where he and other would-be spirits, played by the likes of Tony Hale and Bill SkarsgÄrd, observe previously successfully chosen souls now living as full-on people over CRT television sets to judge their real-time progress.

Oda really commits to his strange but celestial premise and the spiritual conceit (think After Life meets Soul) by making Duke's Will such a tortured arbiter full of conflict and regrets about how he lived (or failed to) in his one chance at life on Earth and how that informs who he chooses to go on to live. We see how invested he becomes in the lives of those chosen then how mournful he is when they die as he feels responsible for sending them off to exist.

Nine Days tries very artfully to break down a literal meaning to life by looking at it through the immersive lens of souls who have never lived and someone who has but has baggage from the experience. Its reflection on existence and what it takes to be or to live comes off as thoughtfully didactic. By sort of dissecting the physical and spiritual nature of existence, the film tries to celebrate the act of life and living in its conception of a "before life".


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