Reviewer: Freda Cooper
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul, Oliver Platt, Barbara Hershey
Released 2nd September 2016
The Louis Drax of the title is nine years old and, as you might have guessed, accident prone. And, having turned the best-seller of the same name into a feature film, it seems director Alexandre Aja now has eight of his own left.
We meet Louis at the start of the film right in the middle of his ninth accident: it’s his birthday and he’s managed to survive eight previous life threatening mishaps, although this one is the worst. Astonishingly, he pulls through but is still in a deep coma so he’s put into the care of psychologist Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan), who tries various methods to bring him round. But as he digs into the boy’s past, he realises there’s more to his story than he first believed.
So, ‘The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax’ is a mystery? With all the question marks above the boy’s accident, his past and the disappearance of his father, it could be. Except that it’s transparently obvious from early on how it’s going to pan out. A fantasy, then? Well, the opening sequence, despite the sub-par special effects, points in that direction and so does the strange sea creature that follows the boy around. But, again, it’s unconvincing and heavy handed. How about a psychological thriller? The connection between Louis and Pascal is certainly deeper than the usual doctor/patient relationship. Yet it has the same problems as the first two possibilities. The truth is it’s all of them and none, because this is a film that hasn’t a clue what it wants to be.
That, by itself, makes the film hard enough to follow, but Aja has chosen to complicate matters even further with dream sequences, flashbacks and an unreliable narrator. That’s an awful lot of balls to keep in the air and he manages to drop them all in turn, giving us a film that simply doesn’t make sense. There are loose ends flapping all over the place, meaning it’s either badly constructed, badly edited or, as is more likely, a combination of the two. There’s a recycling bin somewhere stuffed with all the missing bits of much-needed explanation.
Worst of all, the whole thing is so mind numbingly boring and turgid that you’ve already given up on it well before the half way mark and no longer care what on earth the film is trying to say. It becomes nothing more than a slog and you can’t even pay it the back-handed compliment of saying it’s so bad it’s funny. It’s way too tedious for that.
The cast have the odds stacked against them and you can’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy. Even experienced hands like Barbara Hershey and Oliver Platt can’t do much to lift it out of the doldrums. ‘The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax’ is a just a mess and a puzzle. A puzzle that it ever got made.