Winston Duke’s best performance of his career
I saw for the first time Nine days assisting AFI party 2020. After watching it, I immediately saw it again less than 24 hours later. The release has kept getting pushed back, but the time has come as the film hits theaters this week. So I sat down and saw him for the third time, and every emotion I felt ten months ago came back and even more difficult.
When you think about it, parents remember your first steps and you remember your first teachers, your first kiss, your first date, and today we’re watching Edison Oda’s feature debut. So you may wonder why I start this journey through Nine days here.
We’ve often seen movies questioning the idea of what life after death is, but Oda looks at what life before life is. He asks us the question.
Nine Days asks what it’s like to be alive
Throughout this poetic journey he takes us on, we first reflect on ourselves, but he also forces us to dig deeper and show that life is full of repeatable events. Most of us wake up, go to work, come home, have dinner, rinse, recycle, and start over. Is that what it is to be alive?
The first act is constructed with this style of found images of various people going through their lives as Amanda prepares for her concerto. The mystery surrounding what is happening is enriched by this unearthed score which is somewhat difficult to hear and connects you emotionally to this world.
The leader of the pact is Will (Winston Duke), this somewhat undead man tasked with finding those to whom they will give life too. Will brings a group of individuals together and when he does, he challenges them with questions and assigns them a task, which includes watching so many other lives on television.
As we begin to remove each person’s diapers during this process, Will examines them with ideas and goals to see how they work under certain circumstances. Each movement made, Will takes notes. Its job is to get into the individual’s mind and determine if they are worthy enough to take that next step.
As you go through this process, you start to think about what you would do in their shoes. What would life be like if you could watch people live? How would we react to watching these strangers go through life’s emotional roller coaster? Would we become attached to their travels? Become obsessed? What would you do?
Technically speaking, the emotional weight of the film begins on the harmonic tone of this violin, and the score transports you throughout the film. Antonio Pinto’s score brought me to my knees several times and reminded the audience how important a score is for a film. Oda makes the score her own character, and she thrives because of it.
Winston Duke is brilliant in Nine Days
Winston Duke not only gives the best performance of his career but one of the best performances of the year. Will gives potential life to others, and as he does so throughout the film, he embodies the idea of ’life’, but in that lifeless way where every movement feels like it is sur- excreted. Winston had the manners and characteristics that make Will work. From the posture to the facial expressions to the way the words fell from his tongue, I was captivated by each complexity of Will in a way that reminded me of his mind.
As we near the end of our movie, chills run through my back as we see Will breaking through the barrier that wasn’t characteristic of anything we’ve seen of him yet. We saw the life inside HIM spilling onto the screen as his words were powerful, and they soar through the air as you cling to each last breath. You are Will, Winston is Will, and we have witnessed the birth of a new life right now.
I leave you with this if you could relive a moment of your life before you died, what would it be?