The newest movie in theaters with a faith element doesn't fit neatly in a box, and director Edson Oda is just fine with that.
Called Nine Days, it tells the story of a group of souls who interview for a chance to "be born." At the end of the nine days – and after a grueling series of questions about life choices and ethics – one of them will be chosen and sent to Earth. Leading this quest to choose a soul is a pensive soul named Will, who formerly inhabited a body but now has the power to decide which souls advance.
In Nine Days, the souls marvel at the wonders of Earth, including its scenic beaches and cool breezes. They desperately want to travel there – but only one will get that opportunity.
It's a film that combines elements from different genres: dramas, cerebral reality programs, fantasies and faith-based movies, even though it's not a Christian movie, and even though the plot doesn't square with Christian theology.
Oda describes it as "spi-fi," a term borrowed from a friend. In other words, it's not 100 percent spiritual. But it's also not science fiction. It is, Oda says, a "spiritual fiction film."
"I wrote it based on my uncle. My uncle, like Will, was this very sensitive, talented and kind person," Oda told Christian Headlines. "When he was 50, he committed suicide. … I was really afraid of becoming like him. But at some point, I started going through some struggles and some problems as well. And then that was the moment I felt like, 'Oh, that's how he felt' – in a different way, of course. But from that experience, I was able to have more empathy to what he was going through."
Nine Days, Oda said, celebrates "everything that he went through in a positive way."
Will observes the actions of people on Earth by watching a huge stack of television sets – each one showing life from an individual's perspective. Early in the film, one of the people he was monitoring dies in a single-car crash. Will is left wondering: Was it an accident or a suicide?
The film, although rated R for language, also has similarities to the popular Disney/Pixar movie "Soul," which was released last year and told the story of souls trying to make their way to Earth.
Will has "elements of an angel" because "he watches over people. But he's actually more "like an interviewer," Oda said.
"After Will sends someone out, he can't do anything about them. He can't protect them. He just selects them, and that's it," Oda said.
The film stars several well-known actors and actresses, including Winston Duke (Black Panther, Avengers), Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Avengers series), Zazie Beetz (Joker) and Tony Hale (Toy Story 4, Arrested Development).
Asked what he wants filmgoers to think about after watching the movie, Oda said, "We always feel like we need to be happy. ... When I don't think life is just about the happiness or depression or anything, but it's kind of a combination of both. … We learn with the struggles, but also we maybe shouldn't take for granted when something beautiful happens."
Nine Days is rated R for language
Photo courtesy: Denise Jans/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.