THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX (UK | Canada | USA/15A/108mins)
Directed by Alexandre Aja. Starring Jamie Dornan, Aiden Longworth, Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul, Molly Parker
THE PLOT: Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) is accident-prone. He believes his first accident was being born via caesarean section, but when an accident on his ninth birthday leaves him in a coma and his father missing, Dr Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan) decides to try a new way of communicating with the boy, to find out just what caused his accident and how much he knows.
THE VERDICT: ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’ is based on the novel of the same name by Liz Jensen, and is a strangely muddled film. The tone and pace of the film are never quite right, so while there is a lot to admire, ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’ never seems to land properly.
Aiden Longworth leads the cast as young Louis Drax, and is as charming, deceitful, angry and fun as a nine-year-old boy should be. His voiceover brings the film together, and it is clear that he is a young actor to keep an eye out for. Sarah Gadon plays Louis’ mother Natalie, and makes the character quiet but with a darkness lingering just underneath the surface. Aaron Paul plays Louis’ father Peter, and has a strong rapport with his young co-star in this smaller role, Jamie Dornan breaks out the charm and curiosity as a young doctor who believes that there is more going on with Louis than meets the eye.
Max Minghella’s screenplay for ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’ is a tonal mess. The introduction to the film leads the audience to believe that the film will be a charming, whimsical romp along the lines of ‘Amelie’ or ‘Hugo’, but there is a darkness to the film that is only hinted at for most of the 108 minute running time, before coming to the fore too late for it to save the meandering film that is not quite mysterious enough.
As director, Alexandre Aja gets strong performances from the cast, but never truly manages to settle on a tone for the film – whimsy and reality continually clash, and never sit well together in ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’. As well as this, the idea that there is a mystery to be solved is evident from the beginning, but there is so much misdirection in the film it is hard to know which mystery the audience should care about. The pacing of the film is also a mess, with most of the film meandering in and out of dreams, and through the life of Louis through flashback, so when the finale finally does hit, it seems to come from nowhere.
In all, ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax’ is never sure what it is going for. The whimsical, childlike side of the story never sits well with the dramatic, real world tale, and although there is plenty to like in the film this mish-mash never gels, and the finale feels rushed and rather out of place.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    The 9th Life Of Louis Drax initially seems like a curious change of direction for Frenchman Alexandre Aja, better known for his gory horrors Switchblade Romance, The Hills Have Eyes remake and Horns. It has a fairytale quality to it, but it also skirts along the darker edges of human behaviour.

    Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) is an accident-prone boy who has miraculously survived a fall from a cliff. He was having a picnic with his mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) and father Peter (Aaron Paul). Peter has since disappeared, leaving Louis in a coma. Psychologist Dr. Allan (Jamie Dornan) is assigned to analyse his case and determine just what’s going on in this family. He consults with Dr. Perez (Oliver Platt) about Louis and discovers why Louis is different to other boys his age. Through extensive flashbacks, more is revealed as to Louis’ behaviour. Strange notes arrive for Dr. Allan, seemingly from Louis, even though he’s in a coma. Then there’s the other matter of Louis being stalked in his mind by a creature from the ocean depths…

    In a crowded week of new film releases, it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. The 9th Life Of Louis Drax is that film. It hasn’t had much of a push from distributor Soda Pictures, even with Dornan back in Dublin this week for promotional duties on another film. That’s a shame really, because this film deserves a wider audience. It may not entirely be a bad thing though, as it’s one of those discovery films that surprises you and delights you in equal measure. Based on the novel by Liz Jensen and adapted by Max Minghella, Aja makes this a seductive, sweepingly cinematic dark fairytale. It has its fantastical moments, but it’s also rooted in an everyday reality that is convincing.

    Boiled down to the basics, it’s a mother-and-son story, with periphery characters acting as outsiders looking in on the strange relationship between them. The final revelation doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, but it’s done in a subtle way which is a credit to the actor involved. Patrick Watson’s excellent music is used in a way to sell the varying emotions of the characters as they’re put through various trials and Aja makes good use of his sets and locations. As the credits rolls, it leaves the overall impression of a lost M. Night Shyamalan film, but moves to its own quirky heartbeat. The 9th Life Of Louis Drax is smart, imaginative and well worth seeking out if you’re looking for something unique. ****