An unexpected jewel arrives in the form of a dark family story with a twist. The 9th Life of Louis Drax isn’t for everyone but adventurous viewers will be amply rewarded. Louis is an accident prone boy whose over protective mother constantly worries and hovers preventing him from leading an authentic life. He retreats into imagination, dreams and nightmares and then finds his strength in words. It’s a psychological thriller, part fable and all cautionary tale with elements of magic realism. Louis begins to stand up for himself with dignity and wicked humour as his mother’s grip gets tighter. She believes Louis’ is on his 8th life out of a possible nine, but he’s anxious for space and integrity on his own terms. We the audience see what the characters don’t – each other. People aren’t what they seem to be, by a long shot, much is hidden and the twist is therefore, not unexpected. Sarah Gadon maintains a nervous hyper alert performance as his mother and Jamie Dornan is the psychiatrist who steps over the line. Aaron Paul is Louis’ estranged father who is bewildered by the accidents, Louis’ mental state and his wife’s stability. Terrific young actor Aiden Longworth gives Louis a layered presence with emotional authenticity.
Michael Fassbender lived with Alicia Vikander before they started shooting The Light Between Oceans in order to develop chemistry as a couple living in extraordinary isolation and pain. They are now a couple! But they did the job; their performances come from a deep place in what is a portrait pain. Fassbender is a war-scarred lighthouse operator keen to be on his own after fighting in the war. Its 1917 and the lighthouse is on an island off the coast of Australia where the isolation is unbroken. He meets Vikander’s character on a trip to the mainland, they begin a correspondence and she comes to marry him. She suffers two agonising miscarriages and breaks down. One day they discover a baby and a dead man adrift in a lifeboat, and she convinces her husband to bury the body and let her keep the child, against his better judgement. It’s a test of their moral fibre and they’re forced to face their true natures. Things begin to fall apart. This is no sweet tale; it’s dark and fearsome with glimpses of evil. The performances are strong and graceful but the heaviness of the emotion, the struggle and the choice they make set against a constantly churning dark sea all make this grim, an experience of unremitting stark pain.
Morgan stars The Witch’ Anya Taylor-Joy as a humanoid robot, that is, artificially made in human form that is about to be destroyed by a corporate risk consultant. But of course we begin to see Morgan as real, as a sentient being so we sympathise with her, even as she gains in destructive. This story has been many times, in Ex Machina, Splice, Alien, Hannah, as a manmade entity develops cognition and emotion and wants out of servitude. These stories feed our obsession with what the future might look like as it’s pretty clear we’re going robot sooner rather than later. Kate Mara plays the consultant who decides its best for the corporation to destroy Morgan. She recognises that Morgan is “waking up” and poses an enormous risk. It takes place in a mountain top laboratory, as the other stories do for the most party. Ridley Scott’s son Luke makes his directorial debut for the film produced by his father. and this is interesting. Take a look at the trailer. Here’s the official word: “Scientists at IBM Research have collaborated with 20th Century Fox to create the first-ever cognitive movie trailer for the movie. Utilizing experimental Watson APIs and machine learning techniques, the IBM Research system analyzed hundreds of horror/thriller movie trailers. After learning what keeps audiences on the edge of their seats, the AI system suggested the top 10 best candidate moments for a trailer from the movie Morgan, which an IBM filmmaker then edited and arranged together.”