The 9th Life of Louis Drax is a movie oddity. It’s available on Ster Kinekor DVD as of this month, but it’s likely to go ignored for a number of reasons. We’ll get to those reasons in a second, but flaws aside, this mystery thriller – with its good dollop of supernatural – is surprisingly watchable. If you enjoyed The Sixth Sense, make an effort to watch this one.
The 9th Life of Louis Drax is based on a bestselling novel by Liz Jensen. In it, the troubled, accident-prone title character (played by Aiden Longworth) falls from an ocean cliff on his ninth birthday. Miraculously, he survives, but is left comatose. Louis’s specialist, Dr Allan Pascal (Jamie “I’m more than Christian Grey” Dornan) finds himself drawn into the investigation to determine what exactly happened. Things are complicated when Pascal finds himself falling for Louis’s delicate mother (Sarah Gadon), and unexplained events start occurring. Aaron Paul, Oliver Platt and Barbara Hershey also appear in the movie.
The primary problem with The 9th Life of Louis Drax is that it’s such a mix of different elements. Part of it is an adult-centred police procedural. Another part of it is a dark children’s fantasy, as the audience gains access to Louis’s idiosyncratic thoughts and memories. And yet another part is a supernatural thriller, complete with monsters and experiments in attempting to link unconscious minds. These different elements are slammed together, and frequently transitions between scenes feel very awkward.
This kind of genre muddling no doubt made The 9th Life of Louis Drax difficult to market. The DVD cover has no obvious connection to the plot synopsis, while the trailer focuses on the supernatural aspect alone. You really don’t receive a complete sense of what the movie is about upfront. Granted it didn’t have a wide release, but at a cinema it fizzled, making less than half a million dollars – and ensuring that it stayed relatively unknown.
Weirdly though, The 9th Life of Louis Drax still works. You’ll probably solve the mystery early on, but over the movie’s 104-minute running time it builds up substantial emotional charge. It helps that the characters are more nuanced than usual, and there is some genuine visual flair to keep viewers engaged. Best of all, the heartfelt ending retains enough messy complication for it to feel credible, and fitting with the film’s overall tone.
So, yeah, give The 9th Life of Louis Drax a chance. It’s far from perfect, but it ticks many of the same blocks as The Sixth Sense and Pan’s Labyrinth. And it feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve enjoyed a satisfying movie experience of that nature.