Nine Days Parent Guide
To be...or not?
Parent Movie Review
When Amanda’s car slams into a concrete wall, Will is devastated. Desperate to see if he missed any clues, he pores over the last days of her life, listening to her violin concerto over and over and reviewing images of her joyous, creative life. But Will is no ordinary friend: He’s the person who sent Amanda to earth. And he’s responsible for selecting the new soul who will go to earth to fill the vacancy left by Amanda’s death.
Six souls come to Will to “audition” in this high-stakes test. After nine days, Will is going to choose one to be born: the other five will cease to exist. Will questions them, gives them scenarios to think about, and has them watch the wall of televisions that show life through the eyes of everyone he’s sent to earth. The candidates ponder life on earth: physical experiences, natural beauty, joy, injustice, and suffering. And Will tries to figure out which of them will be best suited to being a “success” in mortality.
Nine Days is a mesmerizing film. As a critic, it’s a delight to watch a film that is wholly original and blessedly unpredictable. In most movies, I can predict developments 20 minutes ahead but with this one, I never knew what was coming. It’s full of big questions and small, incandescent details. The movie asks us what we believe about life – its genesis, its purpose, its successes, its unavoidable pain. And it shows us life in joyful snippets and horrible suffering. The characters’ journey makes us ponder what matters to us – and reminds us that even the tiniest things can be achingly precious. Eating a perfect peach. Walking along the shore. Feeling water splash on your hand. And it does so with a spare, honest script and characters who quickly become very real.
Will is not a god-like character; he’s very human, with his own demons and uncertainties. Of all the movie’s characters, he alone has lived on earth, and his sufferings have left him with baggage that burdens him as he tries to make his decision. His empathy makes him suffer along with the people he sent to earth and he is haunted by Amanda’s death. He rages to his friend, Kyo, “I send flowers [to earth] and other people send pigs to eat them.” Desperate to prevent more suffering, he is torn about whether he should send to earth a person with an overflowing heart and the capacity for beauty and wonder or if he should send a pragmatist who will be able to survive in the face of harsh realities. His care for the candidates is palpable and that affection is transmitted to the audience, making the end of each soul heartbreaking.
Given its topic, it comes as a surprise that Nine Days is not a religious film. This story is told in isolation, without a philosophical or religious framework. Will describes himself as a “cog in the wheel” and is part of a system that no one explains. We never learn where the auditioning souls come from, and there is no elaboration on why Will is doing his job or if other departed people also continue to exist in some form. If you’re looking for some kind of existential guidance, you won’t find it here.
What you will find in this film is an intensely human story focused on the preciousness of our fleeting years on this planet. There are a few content issues – just under 20 swear words, some bathroom humor, a character who seems intoxicated – that will push the movie out of family movie night. But, frankly, this film is far too complex for kids or tweens. Older teens might enjoy it, especially if they enjoy grappling with philosophical or religious questions. As for adults, Nine Days is a solid choice for anyone who wants to be reminded of the mystery and beauty of life.Directed by Edson Oda. Starring Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, and Bill Skarsgard. Running time: 124 minutes. Theatrical release August 13, 2021. Updated August 10, 2021
Watch the trailer for Nine Days
Rating & Content Info
Why is Nine Days rated R? Nine Days is rated R by the MPAA for language.
Violence: Scenes of a boy being bullied at school. He finally fights back and someone is seen badly hurt. A person commits suicide by driving into a cement wall. The scene is replayed more than once. People are put in an imagined scenario where they are expected to determine if they will kill a child to save others. A man suggests (not seriously) that someone cut off his genitals. There’s brief mention of poisoning someone. A man is shot and paralyzed as a result. A man deliberately hurts another to make a point. Characters fade into nothing and cease to exist. A man sets fire to VHS tapes. There’s mention of teens being raped and murdered.
Sexual Content: There are a few scenes of people kissing.
Profanity: There are approximately eight sexual expletives, eight scatological curses, and three terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: People drink beer while they chat. A man drinks beer and seems to be inebriated. A man tells a story about a drunk vomiting. People drink beer and wine with dinner.
Page last updated August 10, 2021
Nine Days Parents' Guide
What do you believe about the purpose of life? Do you believe you existed in some form before birth? Do you think your life has value to others? What do you think you can do to make life better for other people?
Do you think Will made the right choice? What do you think motivated his choice? Who would you have chosen to come to earth? Why?
Related home video titles:
In the animated movie, Soul, a man dies and finds himself in the pre-mortal world instead of the afterlife. Now he has to figure out how to get back to his body and his life on earth.
In The Truman Show, a man realizes that his entire life is a reality show, watched by millions of people on television. Will he be able to break out of the fantasy created around him to live his own life?
A young boy is shipwrecked, only to wind up sharing a lifeboat with a tiger. Life of Pi is an intriguing meditation on some of life’s big questions.
For a documentary take on humanity’s search for the meaning of life, you can try the documentary The Human Experience.