One of the best films of the year, unquestionably, is the new thought-provoking star-studded drama, Nine Days. Will (Winston Duke) is a recruiter for the special gift of life, and now he must find a soul (Bill Skarsgard, Tony Hale, Zazie Beetz, and more) to fill the newest vacant slot. He tests the candidates in a variety of ways with varying criteria to ensure he comes away with only the most worthy.
Last week, Allison and I got together with the film’s writer and director, Edson Oda, for a special interview to give some spoilery intel with a couple of our burning questions. Read on for our exclusive interview with Edson!
We watched Nine Days as part of the virtual Atlanta Film Festival, and I completely fell in love with it. Now, audiences everywhere will finally get to experience this provocative and fascinating drama that has been rattling around in my head for months. What’s something about the project, even if just a particular scene, that you’re most excited for people to see?
EDSON ODA: I think the monologue for sure, right at the end. Their performances are so amazing and visceral, and I love everything about that scene. Some other scenes that I love too are the beach scene, and the bicycle scene as well. It’s interesting with the bicycle scene—before I started filming the movie, I created this proof of concept that I even put online. I was trying just to show people how would look like when they’re reading the page, at least kind of an idea. So it’s special just to see from what it was, and what it became when we shot the movie. So I think those things were some of my favorite scenes in the movie.
Much of the film revolves around VHS tapes. Can you tell us about the choice to use old-school technology to display the memories and lives of the real world?
EDSON: VHS, and tube TVs—they all bring us back to some kind of nostalgic feeling, at least for me, you know? This movie is so much about nostalgia, which is pretty much like not being able to grasp something that really went away. When I was writing Nine Days, I imagined that the house would represent who Will was when he was alive. I imagine he died in the 80s, so he got imprisoned in that time period. Everything that’s in the house belongs to that 80s period. That’s why you’re not going to see like a Macbook, or iPhone, or things that are more contemporary. So he’s stuck in that period of time.
One of my favorite elements of the movie is when the candidates get one last wish, a meaningful moment of beauty. Did you have a primary inspiration for these emotional sequences?
EDSON: I want it to be like theatrical. I think it’s so much about nostalgia. It’s interesting to just imagine moments or things I miss the most, or moments that were really special in my life—not necessarily about big achievements or anything, but it’s more like a time of when I was dancing with friends or something, or like those simple moments that I miss so much. They feel big, but there’s nothing glamorous about it. I wanted to recreate that in a way that felt very intimate, almost theatrical, that only you experience through your subjective lenses. More or less that’s where I was coming from when I created those moments.
Finding beauty in the simplest moments life has to offer is a deeply personal theme that I found so relatable. Why do you think audiences more than ever need this message of positivity?
EDSON: Yeah, it’s interesting—people who watched it before the pandemic, and then they watched again, and come to me and they just say they could relate even more with the film. That was very interesting to see because I think right now, we all somehow experienced high levels of isolation. Going through struggles you haven’t gone through before. When I’m writing something, I want to talk to people who are feeling more or less the same feelings I’m feeling now, and that helps me not to feel alone. I hope this will make people feel less lonely as well.
I think it’s the messages, like, you’re not alone. There are other people who are there, who have been there. Of course, there will always be moments of struggle, but there’s so much joy as well. So, it’s not that I want them to just forget about moments of struggle and all those difficult moments. More like, appreciate when very special moments happen in your life.
Will seemed to be more in favor of Emma due to her unique qualities. Why do you think Kane was ultimately chosen to receive the gift of life?
EDSON: I think Will went through a lot when he was alive, a lot of pain and a lot of bad experience. He saw himself as someone who was too sensitive. He wasn’t prepared to thrive in this very tough world out there. When you see Amanda, she is someone who had some qualities that are very similar to what Will was, but she was kind of different. So she could survive in the world. When he realized that she killed herself, Will comes to a conclusion that, ‘I can’t be sending these kind of souls to the world, people like me. I need to send people who I know will thrive, who will survive.’ Will does not necessarily agrees with what they do, but he knows that they will be survivors.
Kane, as you can see, he’s a survivor. He’s someone who adapts, and someone who will do whatever it takes to just have it done. Will wanted to pick Emma. There’s even a part of the film when he’s arguing with Kyo. Kyo wants to send her, but Will says ‘I can’t send flowers when everyone else is saying pigs.’ It’s almost like if everyone agrees, ‘okay, let’s just send Emma to the world.’ He can send Emma. But if people around are not like that, it’s harder for her. Maybe she would survive, but he wanted to at least guarantee ‘this time, I’m not screwing things up.’ For him, it’s very important.
We have to talk briefly about that ending. Was Will chasing after Emma to save her, to help her transition to life, or to simply be there for when she drifts away?
EDSON: On that note, I don’t want to come with an exact conclusion. It’s just so much about your interpretation, different readings, or even what happens is simply what happens, you know? For this one, I’m just gonna let the audience just figure out their interpretation to it.
Big thanks to Edson Oda for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us! Don’t miss out on this incredible and emotionally complex drama as soon as you get the chance to see it in a theater! Nine Days comes to theaters in New York and Los Angeles on July 30th, with a nationwide rollout on August 6th, from Sony Pictures Classics.
Check out my full review for Nine Days.