A young boy has a terrible accident and a doctor starts to investigate his life.
The 9th Life of Louis Drax is based on the best-selling 2004 novel of the same name by Liz Jensen and it’s pretty darn weird.
Now there’s nothing wrong with weird and there are plenty of moments where this sense of strangeness adds to the mystery around Louis Drax’s short and odd life. Add in some serious visual style and a curious tone and this film by Alexandre Aja is definitely not what you might expect.
Plus points- it looks well and there’s a very fine cast on offer including names like Jamie Dornan, Oliver Platt, Barbara Hershey and the luminous Sarah Gadon.
Aaron Paul is also on board and pushes out some of the best work of his career as Louis’ father. It’s a more complex role than he’s usually given and the actor does great work, even though it’s hard to see him as an ex boxer with a nine year old son.
Most of the rest of the folks do their thing adequately, while young Aiden Longworth’s Louis is hard to get a handle on- which is probably intentional. The one big issue is Dornan who is again is lumbered with an awkward American accent and delivery so wooden you’d swear a spark would set him alight.
Aja’s involvement is problematic too. The French director is mostly known for his horrors including Switchblade Romance, Mirrors and Horns. While he dials back those elements here, the attempt to replace them with a sense of magic and mystery isn’t always successful.
As I said there are some remarkable images in Louis Drax but also a sense of a film struggling against it’s own low budget. The movements of the story are engaging enough in theory but it all unfolds so languidly that it’s difficult to stay on board for the 108 minute running time.
The tone is jarring too- much of the film could be grim fairytale but for a few violent images or curse word that feel totally unnecessary. You have to wonder if anyone involved really knew what audience they were aiming for.
Sometimes stylish but marred by some casting blips and an erratic tone, The 9th Life of Louis Drax might be better left on the page.