The 9th Life of Louis Drax
dir Alexandre Aja
scr Max Minghella
prd Alexandre Aja, Tim Bricknell, Max Minghella
with Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul, Aiden Longworth, Oliver Platt, Barbara Hershey, Molly Parker, Julian Wadham, Jane McGregor, Anjali Jay, Lina Roessler, Terry Chen
release US/UK 2.Sep.16
16/Canada Miramax 1h48
The 9th Life of Louis Drax
Enmeshed in mystery: Gadon and Dornan

paul platt hershey
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The 9th Life of Louis Drax Hitchcockian overtones are strong in this dramatic thriller, which plays with danger and mystery as it recounts the story of a somewhat odd 9-year-old boy. Slick filmmaking and sympathetic performances make it thoroughly engaging, as do the twists and turns in the story, even though everything often feels rather over-egged.

By the time he reaches 9, Louis (Longworth) has already died eight times. Is he accident prone, or just a victim of bad luck? Whatever, his fiercely protective mother Natalie (Gadon) and loyal dad Peter (Paul) have a big birthday celebration planned. But it goes horribly wrong, leaving Louis in a coma, cared for by Dr Pascal (Dornan). With a police detective (Parker) nosing around, Pascal digs into the story himself, meeting Louis' therapist (Platt) and Peter's rather intense mother (Hershey). He also has to admit that something's happening here that he can't explain.

Director Aja and writer Minghella layer in so many tricky elements that the audience is kept off-balance for much of the movie. Narrated by Louis from within his coma, the imagery is a swirl of flashbacks and fantasies, plus the more immediate drama of Pascal's sometimes illicit interaction with Natalie. All of this is infused with imagery and themes from classic Hitchcock movies, from the San Francisco setting to dizzying heights, identity switches and a mysterious blonde.

Dornan tries to rein in his sex appeal as the smouldering doctor who has a loving wife (McGregor) but can't help but be drawn to the needy, openly lusty Natalie. Gadon offers some terrific touches as an over-concerned mother who clearly has a lot going on in her head, while Paul balances her nicely as a man who is far more complex than expected. Platt has a great time with the know-it-all role, while Hershey adds some bluster in her brief scenes and the superb Parker is oddly sidelined as a sardonic cop.

At the centre, Longworth has an intriguing presence as the seriously quirky Louis, bullied at school and possibly touched with some sort of supernatural energy. This means that the story's narrative twists and turns can go pretty much anywhere, which kind of eliminates any proper feelings of suspense. But the final scenes carry a strong dramatic kick that offers some intriguing insight into the situation. And Aja's visual approach has stylish fluidity that nicely envelops the audience.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 9.Aug.16

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