The 9th Life of Louis Drax is a strange little flick that came out last year with little to no fanfare. It seems like it is destined to become a minor cult film in years to come, like the “Donnie Darko for kids,” The Last Mimzy.
The main problem with The 9th Life of Louis Drax is that its tone changes radically throughout. It’s about kid called Louis Drax who falls off a mountain cliff on his 9th birthday. He ends up in a coma, following a history of accidents that would have killed or seriously harmed any other boy. There is also perhaps some physical abuse from his parents, and whatever is going on, it has had a serious impact on Louis.
Jamie Dornan plays a psychologist who begins working with Louis to help him out of his coma. The psychologist who starts a interest in the boy’s mother (Sarah Gadon), and the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur.
The film is directed by Alexandre Aja, who is mainly known as a horror director: he made his name with High Tension in 2003. Despite his art-house background, he was co-opted by Hollywood, and directed the remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha. He has gone somewhat back to his indie roots with Horns and this film. However, he simply doesn’t quite have the right tone here: at times it could almost be one of those “faith-based films,” the next it’s a surreal fantasy film. (Joe Dante would’ve been an ideal choice of director: he always gets great performances out of child actors and navigates the right balance between darkness and being just kid-friendly enough). At one point of the film, Louis is talking to something humanoid covered in barnacles, and the feel is not unlike the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth.
Gadon has the most interesting role in the film, and is crucial to the film’s big twist. This caps off a run of interesting parts for her in film and the TV series 22.11.63 which i’m sure will continue. Aaron Paul plays the father who, unlike Bryan Cranston, has not had a great post-Breaking Bad career but keeps trying. He’s OK in the film, but the script doesn’t make much of his abilities. Barbara Hershey also shows up in a small part as Louis’s grandmother—a random but welcome choice of casting.
It’s consistently intriguing, but with all the disparate elements, the movie doesn’t quite gel. The twist is somewhat anti-climactic.
There’s a two-minute featurette and two different trailers, rated 12A and 15—a fact that shows up the other main problem of the film. It’s never sure whether it wants to be for adults or for kids, when in reality it should be both.