A beautiful, haunting fable.
Alexandre Aja is a visionary filmmaker whose been expanding his French horror roots (‘Haute Tension’) into growing more fantastic tales. His 2016 film ‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax‘ is a wondrous, haunting story of childhood innocence lost wrapped into a deliciously macabre mystery.
Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) is a precocious, accident prone 9-year-old. So much so that when we first meet him he’s already fallen off an oceanic cliff to his death. Well, sort of, as Louis becomes the narrator of his “afterlife”.
When Louis’ badly damaged body miraculously returns to life, specialist Dr. Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan) is called in to look after this now comatose young boy.
Pascal offers Louis’ enchanting mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) the only hope available. He believes that comatose patients are still perceptive of their world and are simply lost while they try to reconnect with their life and loved ones.
As Dr. Pascal and Natalie bond through tragedy the mystery surrounding Louis’ “accident” is patiently investigated by a steely detective (Molly Parker). And we soon discover hidden truths about Louis’ relationship with his missing, presumed guilty father (Aaron Paul, amazing) and his pre-accident visits with an affable child therapist (Oliver Platt).
Taking cues from fellow Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet (‘Amelie’) and horror auteur Guillermo del Toro, Aja incorporates a fablesque veneer to hide more ominous realities. Louis’ vivid imagination and persistence of life translate to fascinating, brilliant visuals accompanying his narration through a labyrinth of disturbing secrets.
‘The 9th Life of Louis Drax‘ may lack the edge of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ or the perfectionist artistry of ‘Amelie’. However, compelling performances, a probing mystery, and the bathed in fantasy visuals make for a delightful film.