Song of the Day #5,004: ‘Father and Daughter’ – Antonio Pinto

Continuing the countdown of my favorite 2021 movies…

Best Films of 2021
#7 – Nine Days

Nine Days, the feature length debut by writer-director Edson Oda, is one of the most promising introductions to a new filmmaker I’ve seen in years.

Set in a mundane purgatory where arbiters decide which souls can go on to inhabit human bodies, this film has the profundity of Pixar’s Soul minus the silly business with the cat.

Winston Duke plays Will, one of those arbiters, a sensitive and fastidious man who takes his charge seriously. He is shaken when one of the humans under his observation dies unexpectedly, and he is tasked with assigning a new soul in her place. That selection process takes the titular nine days, during which he interviews a selection of potential humans to determine their worthiness.

Among the candidates is Emma (Zazie Beetz), a curious and empathetic woman who seems less concerned with making the cut than she is with the process itself.

I loved this film’s lo-fi aesthetic (Will uses VHS tapes and old TVs to track the lives of his humans) and sparse setting. It might not look anything like what I’d imagine such a place to resemble, but it immediately feels exactly right.

I already sang Duke’s praises in my post about my person Best Actor nominees. But I was just as thrilled to see Atlanta’s Beetz given a meaty film role (she also dazzled in last year’s The Harder They Fall).

Nine Days is one of those movies that strives to be about nothing less than the meaning of life, and it is remarkably effective on that front. What sort of soul “deserves” a spot on Earth, and is Earth the sort of place a decent soul wants to inhabit, anyway?

In light of his recent loss, Will isn’t sure who he should burden with the responsibility of life. But isn’t a life with no guarantee of happiness still a gift?

Nine Days asks big questions, but it works so well because of small moments. I hope more people discover this special film.

7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,004: ‘Father and Daughter’ – Antonio Pinto

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    The premise and your high praise for this film have piqued my interest.

  2. Peg says:

    This film sounds so interesting. Will definitely check it out.

  3. Amy says:

    You’ve determined what our Friday night movie will be, so thank you! Not sure why this one was never on my radar at all.

  4. Amy says:

    My goodness, I’m a wreck. Just finished watching the film on a flight to LA, and my immediate reaction is that it might not only be my favorite film of the year, but it may earn a slot up there with Eternal Sunshine as one of my all-time favorite films. Now I realize I have to let it settle a bit before making any such conclusions, but I was incredibly moved. What a provocative, evocative, tender, amusing, challenging film this is. You rightly sing the praises of Duke and Beetz, who give tremendous performances. I was equally impressed with the entire cast, each candidate bringing something surprising to reconcile and consider. Particularly good is Tony Hale who made a case for the benefit of having a sense of humor if you’re going to tackle this humanity thing. I laughed out loud twice (on the plane!) as his Alexander tried to diffuse some of the more impossible tasks with a joke (“Do I have another kid?”) Bill Skarkgard’s Kane is equally effective at demonstrating why balancing pragmatism and empathy may be the best approach of all.

    Of course I cried more than I laughed but not from sadness. It’s all just so beautiful and poignant. The cherry blossoms falling on Maria and the waves lapping at the feet of Mike – the tremendous humanity of Will, despite his best efforts to suppress that aspect of his soul.

    Thank you for putting this film on my radar. I’m still not sure why it should be considered a 2021 film rather than 2020, the year it premiered at Sundance. However, since it will likely make my all time best list, it doesn’t much matter.

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