- Actors: Aaron Paul, Jamie Dornan, Michael Adamthwaite, Aiden Longworth
- Director: Alexandre Aja
- Format: NTSC, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Region: Region A/1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: R
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Release Date: February 7, 2017
- Run Time: 108 minutes
Dark children stories made for adult audiences are somewhat rare, but not entirely uncommon. Though only PG-13, last year’s A Monster Calls dealt with heavy topics within the structure of a coming-of-age tale, and nearly all of Guillermo del Toro’s filmography is made up of R-rated fables featuring young protagonists. In that sense, The 9th Life of Louis Drax is in good company, even if it is not nearly as successful as the films it resembles.
The story begins with a premise that feels like the set-up for an ideal Tim Burton film, but without his signature whimsy to lighten the darker elements. Our young narrator, Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth), is a young child who has had many tragic accidents occur, one for each year of his life. On his ninth birthday, Louis falls off of a cliff into the ocean, putting him into a coma (though he remains the film’s narrator). While doctors struggle to repair Louis’ damaged body, the police investigate the accident and try to find his suspiciously missing father (Aaron Paul).
Louis’ fragile mother, Natalie (Sarah Gadon), stays by her son’s side during his recovery in the hospital, and eventually grows closer to Dr. Allen Pascal (Jamie Dornan), the acclaimed neurologist that has taken on his case. As their relationship borders on inappropriate, Dr. Pascal takes the initiative to seek out the truth behind the accident, even gaining perspective from Louis’s psychologist, Dr. Perez (Oliver Platt). Slowly we are given more information about Louis’s mysterious propensity for injury, and the reasons why his father is missing.
There were some emotional elements of The 9th Life of Louis Drax that I found extremely successful, but unfortunately they were buried among too much that absolutely didn’t work. The narrative is far too convoluted, for one thing, placing so much emphasis on the mystery at the center of the story that it ends up neglecting the most crucial relationship in the film in order to retain the suspense. There also seems to be too much time spent with the hugely flawed Dr. Pascal, who becomes the film’s protagonist despite having the least amount of significance on the overall story, if only because the actual protagonist spends much of the run time incapacitated by a coma. The integration of adult material into a children’s story isn’t the problem, but the constant shift in narrative and tone makes for a film that is more inconsistent than it is innovative. Switching from fantasy to murder mystery, from coming-of-age to film noir, The 9th Life of Louis Drax rarely gives the audience a chance to adjust to style and tone before switching again. I also found the character of Louis to be quite unbearable, even if the narrative eventually provides reason for his snarky attitude.
The Blu-ray release of The 9th Life of Louis Drax seems to reflect its receptions from audience and critics alike. There is a Digital HD copy, but no DVD, and the extras only include one making-of featurette. This EPK featurette is only 3-minute long and is included with minimal effort or thought.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 4/10
Special Features: 2/10