Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aiden Longworth, Oliver Platt, Molly Parker, Barbara Hershey, Aaron Paul
Written by: Max Minghella, based on a novel by Liz Jensen
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing images and brief strong language
Running Time: 108
Date: 09/02/2016

The 9th Life of Louis Drax (2016)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sleep Space

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sometimes it can be good to think outside the box, but this weird, undefinable mishmash of dark fantasy, disturbing behavior, and child psychology is ultimately more dismaying than it is refreshing. Written by actor Max Minghella (based on a novel by Liz Jensen) and directed by the usually horror-based Alexandre Aja, The 9th Life of Louis Drax moves confidently, as if it seemed to know where it was going, but as pieces come into place, the picture becomes less and less satisfying.

Nine year-old Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) has a near-fatal fall from a cliff that puts him in a coma. Louis's father (Aaron Paul) has disappeared, and may have been responsible. Louis's distraught mother Natalie (Sarah Gadon) waits by his bed, and consults with the handsome Dr. Pascal (Jamie Dornan). Before long, Natalie and the married doctor begin to develop feelings for each other. In flashback, a psychologist, Dr. Perez (Oliver Platt), speaks to the unusual, accident-prone Louis, trying to figure out what makes him tick. Meanwhile, the unconscious Louis is living in his own dream world, speaking to a strange, seaweed-covered creature. Everything points to one thing: what really happened up there on the cliff?

The warm scenes with the avuncular Platt as a child psychologist seem to point at something wonderful, while the seaweed monster hints at something frighteningly fantastic. But the movie keeps centering back on the weird, illogical behavior of the doctor (pretty boy Dornan from Fifty Shades of Grey) and the equally unsettling behavior of Natalie, who becomes less of a doting mother and more of a femme fatale. Finally, the end result, which could have been a sigh, is more of a "huh?"

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