Film Review | The 9th Life of Louis Drax Fails to Deliver a Consistent Narrative

The 9th Life of Louis Drax is a very odd movie. Directed by French horror maestro Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D), it has a tone placed somewhere between Amelie and a lesser Stephen King novel. Aiden Longworth plays the titular character, a boy who miraculously survives events which should kill him. However, his latest “accident”, a fall off a high cliff, has left him in a coma. Louis’ father (Aaron Paul) is blamed for the event and goes into hiding. Meanwhile, Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan), an experimental doctor, is called in to help the boy, and in doing so forms a bond with Louis’ mother, Natalie (Sarah Gadon).

Working from a first-time script by actor Max Minghella, which in turn is based on a novel by Liz Jensen, Aja has problems establishing a stable rhythm. There are far too many jarring tonal shifts – from the quirky narration, to the monster nightmare sequences, to the romantic drama that develops between Allan and Natalie, to the Stephen King horror of the last twenty minutes. It’s a similar problem to Aja’s last film Horns. However, that movie had a warped, dark humour which was consistently entertaining even when its story was not. With Louis Drax, there is no constant. Aja appears to think Louis’ constant narration is funny, cute and endearing but in reality its incredibly irritating. At one point, the child describes women he finds attractive and a photo of Emma Watson pops up on screen, to which Louis says “hubba bubba”.

Jamie Dornan in The 9th Life of Louis Drax.
Jamie Dornan in The 9th Life of Louis Drax. Source

Aja does bring a certain flair to proceedings. There is a scene in the final quarter of the film involving a telekinetic link between Dr. Pascal and Louis which is genuinely inventive. Without spoiling, it takes the trope of a hypnotist encouraging his subject to “follow his voice” and does something fresh with it, through the use of interesting visual cues and cutting. However, even during these well-orchestrated set-pieces, one is distracted by certain holes in the plot. For instance, the film’s ending is rooted in reality rather than the supernatural and serves to wrap up various plot-lines. However, it doesn’t serve to explain how Dr. Pascal and Louis can communicate telepathically with each other, despite the latter being in a coma.

Dornan, who is very impressive in Anthropoid – the WWII drama coming out September 9 – is a charisma vacuum here. This is frustrating given the film surrounds him with brilliant actors. Oliver Platt, as Louis’ psychiatrist and House of Cards’ Molly Parker, as the cop investigating Louis’ fall, chew the scenery entertainingly as if they are well aware how ludicrous their movie is. Aaron Paul, coming off the heels of his critically acclaimed performance in Hulu drama The Path acquits himself well, bringing a vulnerability to his father role. Cronenberg regular Sarah Gadon is bewitchingly mysterious as Louis’ mother, a character who has many layers, from the angel Louis’ sees to the tortured person she truly is.


Ultimately, Louis Drax is unsatisfying. One can see how the source material could work but Minghella’s script adaptation is a mess lacking tone and coherence. Aja is an undoubtedly talented director. He just needs something better to work with.

The 9th Life of Louis Drax is in cinemas September 9th. Check out the trailer below.

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