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  9th Life of Louis Drax, The Enduring Childhood
Year: 2016
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aiden Longworth, Oliver Platt, Molly Parker, Barbara Hershey, Jane McGregor, Terry Chen, Julian Wadham, Anjali Jay, Lina Roessler, Luke Camilleri, Sarah-Jane Redmond, Alex Zaharra, Anthony Shudra
Genre: Drama, Thriller, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) has always been accident prone, and recently it seems he has suffered the accident to end all accidents. His mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) was always fretting over him since he was forever getting into scrapes, some minor and others major, from contracting food poisoning to being stung by insects to electrocution - you name it, it had threatened Louis' existence. But now, in a way that a cat has nine lives, it has happened that he is onto his own ninth, since he is in a coma in hospital after falling from a high cliff into the sea; the doctors did not hold out much hope for his survival, but after he was clinically dead and somehow revived to the point of unconscious, an improvement over the alternative, could there be a chance for him?

There wasn't much of a chance for the movie that featured him, as it was barely released in cinemas and quickly went straight to DVD in most territories, but something this offbeat was always going to find an audience. The trouble was, it was not nearly as offbeat as it initially appeared, trying on various genre hats over the course of the running time before settling on fantasy as seen through the lens of a thriller, not the best format, and as this was based on a novel by Liz Jensen, you could perceive what might have worked out better on the page was coming across as very awkward for the cinema. Originally this was to have been a prestige drama directed by Anthony Minghella - his son Max was credited with the screenplay - but he sadly passed away before making any progress.

Therefore it landed on the desk of Alexandre Aja, who would not have been everyone's first choice for a delicate slice of magic realism, since he was best known for his full-blooded horror movies that splashed gore around as if it were going out of fashion. But evidently wishing to prove he could handle a change of pace, he signed on to helm this, and you had the impression that if this had gone far trashier instead of trying restraint and supposed good taste, it would have been a more entertaining experience for Aja simply did not demonstrate he was a good match for the material, with the tone uncertain to say the least and the fantasy elements frequently the film's drawback when they simply appeared too convenient.

Too convenient for what? For keeping the plot moving forward, that's what, as if it had not been for a heavy dose of psychic powers in Louis then the mystery would have never been solved, leaving us with one of those tales where the pragmatic likes of doctors and detectives were encouraged to give up any of their usual diagnosis or investigation techniques and give in to the supernatural, not something that ever felt believable when a film was attempting to allow realism to be the basis of the narrative's twists and turns until it gave in to the uncanny. It was always a cop out when you had these professionals admitting they could do nothing until they called in a clairvoyant, for instance, and while that's not what happened here, it was not that far off as one character developed psychic powers out of the blue.

No, not Louis, a different character who was able to channel his mental voice as he lay in that coma, resulting in absurd scenes of him speaking lines in the boy's tones. But we were getting ahead of ourselves, as for the first half hour this was like one of those precious childhood with quirks comedy dramas out of a certain European school of moviemaking, then when it was established somebody was pushed over that cliff, and it might not have been Louis, we had a touch of The Bad Seed (the kid admits cheerily to squashing his pet hamsters with a medical tome) which then developed into a crime thriller where the only answers were held in the mind of an unconscious child, and finally the paranormal was given free rein although this never toppled over into horror as you were expecting, in spite of a macabre aspect (seaweed monster none too well disguising one of the cast, Natalie's apparent fragility giving way to unbalance). The moral was don't judge a book by its cover, apparently, though if you're a hamster who finds oneself crushed beneath it, you may well be doing just that. Neither weird enough nor sensible enough, it fell between two stools. Music by Patrick Watson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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