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Winston Duke as Will in Nine Days.Michael Coles/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

  • Nine Days
  • Directed by Edson Oda
  • Written by Edson Oda
  • Starring Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale
  • Classification R
  • Run time 124 minutes
  • Opens August 13 in Toronto (Varsity & Whitby), Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Hamilton, Waterloo and throughout the summer and fall in other cities.

Benedict Wong as Kyo.Michael Coles/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

There is a lot of promise in Japanese-Brazilian filmmaker Edson Oda’s debut feature, Nine Days. Oda brings us into the world of Will (Winston Duke), a recluse and sort of caretaker of the living, both present and future, who studies and evaluates candidates for the opportunity to be born.

He is studious in his observations of those he has previously chosen; friend and colleague Kyo (Benedict Wong) is a part of this selection process and the two men often come together to celebrate the joyous moments of those living, whom they watch move through life via a wall of televisions and recorded videotapes.

Writer-director Oda’s focus on the full spectrum of life turns small moments into vast experiences. His approach feels somewhat inspired by, or at least vaguely akin to, the early work of French director Michel Gondry in the way that he shapes reality – encompassing the spatial, visual and personal. Where the film stalls, however, is in its main narrative arc. Will, who has previously lived, has experienced the inevitable pain of being alive and it is through an encounter with candidate Emma (Zazie Beetz) that he learns to work through this.

It is an obvious mode of storytelling, relying on the trope of the tortured male irrevocably changed by a free-spirited woman. This convention is made all the more glaring in a story that intends to unfold with subtlety and experimentalism. In its aspirations toward a more grounded idea of high-concept filmmaking, Nine Days falls short of its potential.

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