The 9th Life of Louis Drax

 

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Read on to decide if you would be likely to rate this film more highly than I have done.

 
The 9th Life of Louis Drax, The

Sarah Gadon and Aiden Longworth 

 

Not being a fan of horror films, this is the first time that I have seen the work of the director Alexandre Aja and this adaptation of the best-selling novel by Liz Jensen proves how talented he is. Although a monster does appear in this film, a creature redolent of the sea, this is more a thriller than a horror pic, but one of a highly original, near-fantastical kind. A preface in a light blackly comical tone finds young Louis (Aiden Longworth) describing how in each and every one of his eight years he has suffered a near-fatal accident and now on his ninth birthday the boy plunges from a cliff edge, a fall that appears to be fatal indeed. But the dead youth confounds the doctors by breathing again, albeit that he only survives in a hospital bed in a coma.

 

What follows reveals both what happens next and the past life of Louis as seen in scenes featuring his mother (Sarah Gadon), his psychiatrist (Oliver Platt) and the rather mysterious father figure, Peter Dane (Aaron Paul).  Studying Louis now is the neurologist Dr. Pascal (Jamie Dornan) and looking into the cause of his fall is Detective Dalton (Molly Parker). Furthermore the doctor is soon falling for Louis's mother, but that leads to the appearance of warning notes about their relationship which might be forged by Peter Dane who is missing although they seem to come from Louis who, still in a coma, could not have written them. But has the boy got powers that somehow enable him to assert control over people and events despite the state he is in?

 

The casting of this well acted film is admirable (special praise here for Molly Parker in her supporting role and for young Aiden Longworth) and much of the film, made in Canada but set largely in San Francisco, is so well made and so adroit in turning away from the humour of the opening that one buys into it. For those who continue to feel that way this is a film to see, but I found it a bizarre experience. The wide ranging music score by Patrick Watson on occasion echoes Herrmann's work for Hitchcock, but what I was reminded of was not Vertigo but Psycho. Famously the last few minutes of that film offers an explanation by a psychiatrist which perplexed some admirers of the movie who wondered if its banality was deliberate or not. Being no more than a coda to a masterpiece, it hardly mattered. But the climax of The 9th Life of Louis Drax goes into a mode so far-fetched that it suggests the equivalent of Hitchcock's coda being brought forward to be placed at the very heart of the material. At that point the film for me collapses and hence the relatively low rating above, but, if you can take it, this film will be a rewarding experience.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aiden Longworth, Aaron Paul, Oliver Platt, Molly Parker, Barbara Hershey, Julian Wadham.

 

Dir Alexandre Aja, Pro Alexandre Aja, Tim Bricknell and Max Minghella, Screenplay Max Minghella from the novel by Liz Jensen, Ph Maxime Alexandre, Pro Des Rachel O'Toole, Ed Baxter, Music Patrick Watson, Costumes Carla Hetland.

 

Brightlight Picures/Blank Tape/Fire Axe Pictures/Miramax-Soda Pictures.
108 mins. UK/Canada/USA. 2016. Rel: 2 September 2016. Cert. 15.