Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aiden Longworth, Aaron Paul
Released on 2nd September 2016
When a film’s publicity blurb reeks of desperation, it’s never a good sign. The press release for The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax made much of the fact that it would be Jamie Dornan’s first film since Fifty Shades Of Grey. You remember, the one that was nominated for a handful of Razzies, including one for Dornan himself. In fairness, he does have another, more worthwhile movie coming out next week, World War II drama, Anthropoid, and I’ll be reviewing it then. But is his first film since Fifty really a reason for celebration?
Based on the best-seller by Liz Jensen, the Louis (Aiden Longworth) of the title is, by his own description, troubled and very accident prone. By the time he reaches his ninth birthday, he’s already had eight life threatening accidents. As the film opens, we see the ninth happening. Amazingly, he manages to survive that one too, but this time he’s in a deep coma. Sympathetic psychologist Allan Pascal (Dornan) takes him on as a patient and tries various methods to bring him round, especially digging into his past. And it also means patient and doctor become surprisingly close.
For the first few moments, I was prepared to put the sub-par special effects to one side in hope that I was in for something akin to the magical fantasy T S Spivet (2014). But it didn’t take long for my hopes to go right out of the window. This is a film that really hasn’t got a clue what it wants to be. A mystery, perhaps, discovering the boy’s past, what happened to his father and the real story behind that ninth accident? It could be, if it wasn’t so agonisingly obvious how things are going to pan out. And the same applies to the mysterious creature from the depths that follows the boy around and talks to him. There’s also the so-called mystery surrounding the letters purporting to come from the boy when he’s deep in a coma. Who’s written them? We’re told part of the answer in the early stages of the film – in such a heavy-handed way that we know that crucial bit of information will be important later on. Rocket, or any other kind of science, it ain’t.
It gets worse, because the film commits two cardinal sins. Firstly, it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s full of loose ends, which means it’s either badly constructed, badly edited – with some much-needed explanation ending up in the recycle bin – or both. The latter is the more likely but sin number two is that the film is so mind numbingly boring that you’ve given up hope somewhere in the first half and really don’t care. The rest is just a turgid slog and you can’t even say that it’s so bad it’s funny. It’s way too tedious for that accolade.
The cast don’t stand much of a chance in the face of feeble, unconvincing material and even more experienced hands like Barbara Hershey or Oliver Platt can’t do much to lift it. The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax is just a mess and a puzzle – a puzzle that it ever got made. It’s also the bottom of this week’s proverbial barrel. And, since it’s one of 13 new films released this week, that makes it not just unlucky but a very long way down.
The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax is released on Friday, 2 September and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 1 September.