Nine-year-old Louis (Longworth) has always been accident prone. If it wasn't chandeliers falling on him when he's in the cot, it was the old fork-socket snafus. Even his birth, he says, was an accident. This time though he's pushed his luck too far: while on a picnic with mum Natalie (Gadon) and dad Peter (Paul) he falls from a cliff and now lies in a coma. Only specialist Pascal (Dornan) can help him. But there's something else afoot: mum is acting odd and dad has gone on the run, causing the police – headed up by Dalton (House of Cards' Molly Parker) – to suspect foul play…
here is more than one movie going on in this chunky outing from Alexandre Aja, his first decent movie since his underrated (and hyper violent) The Hills Have Eyes remake. The 9th Life of Louis Drax is a mystery, a psychological drama and a cop thriller. Kind of. It's also told from two different perspectives (switching from Louis' viewpoint to Pascal's and back), uses dream sequences, magic realism, flashbacks, and has an unreliable narrator. In fact kudos to Aja, using actor-turned-writer Max Minghella's (son of the late Anthony) adaptation of Liz Jensen's book, to keep all these balls juggling and still maintain a coherent narrative, however peculiar it might be.
he story pulls at various threads with the Natalie-Peter-Louis family dynamic working best. Seen through the eyes of the boy, the tempestuous relationship of his parents his barely understood; like all kids, all the audience gets is the broad strokes and Aja delights in selling us a lemon before revealing the truth - there's always the suspicion that we're not getting the whole picture, like two people putting together the same jigsaw independently. But as the story shoots off in various directions Aja works hard to keep things grounded. The scenes of Louis' sessions with child psychologist Dr. Perez (a wonderful Oliver Platt) are fun too, as they worm their way into the psychological trauma suffered by this kid.
hat he can't do, however, is disguise the outcome - or at least part of the outcome – and the inclusion of an unconscious Louis being visited by a ghostly sea creature doesn’t work on the screen like it might in the novel. But there's no faulting the performances. Aaron Paul still looks too much like a boy to be a father to one but it's his strongest big screen performance to date. Dornan is solid too and Platt, when used, is a delight.