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Movie review: ‘9th Life of Louis Drax’ is more sinister than it first seems

Jamie+Dornan+as+Dr.+Allan+Pascal+in+a+scene+from+the+movie+%22The+9th+Life+of+Louis+Drax%22+directed+by+Alexandre+Aja.+%28Miramax%2FTNS%29
Jamie Dornan as Dr. Allan Pascal in a scene from the movie

Jamie Dornan as Dr. Allan Pascal in a scene from the movie "The 9th Life of Louis Drax" directed by Alexandre Aja. (Miramax/TNS)

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Jamie Dornan as Dr. Allan Pascal in a scene from the movie "The 9th Life of Louis Drax" directed by Alexandre Aja. (Miramax/TNS)

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By Cary Darling

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

(TNS)

“The 9th Life of Louis Drax” begins as if it’s going to be a sweet children’s film about the goofy life of an accident-prone 9-year-old boy. Events that should have killed him don’t, and he seems untroubled by all of his near-death experiences.

But Louis Drax quickly becomes something darker, more sinister and more surreal as it navigates issues of potential murder, domestic abuse, child abuse, collapsing marriages, and the shadow world between life and death. There’s even a hint of horror.

Based on the novel by Liz Jensen, written by Max Minghella (actor and son of the late director Anthony Minghella) and directed by Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes,” “High Tension”), it’s a long-delayed project, having been in the works for 12 years. The result, despite shifting tones, turns out to be a surprisingly watchable, intriguing, supernatural-tinged thriller.

Aiden Longworth is Louis Drax, a precocious kid whose constant accidents never seem to dent his spirits. It’s all fun and games until he falls over a cliff and is at first thought to be dead but miraculously is not. As it turns out, he’s in a coma, a situation that brings his doting mom (Sarah Gadon, “Indignation” and “11.22.63”) into the orbit of Dr. Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan, “Fifty Shades of Grey”), a specialist who works with children in comas.

Sarah Gadon as Natalie in a scene from the movie "The 9th Life of Louis Drax" directed by Alexandre Aja. (Miramax/TNS)

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Sarah Gadon as Natalie in a scene from the movie “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” directed by Alexandre Aja. (Miramax/TNS)

Her husband (Aaron Paul) is missing, the doctor’s marriage is failing, and it slowly becomes clear — through flashbacks and Louis’ coma experiences — that everyone involved has deeper secrets than they care to admit. And it’s these secrets that detective Dalton (Molly Parker) is determined to plumb in order to determine whether Louis’ fall was an accident.

Aaron Paul as Peter in a scene from the movie "The 9th Life of Louis Drax" directed by Alexandre Aja. (Miramax/TNS)

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Aaron Paul as Peter in a scene from the movie “The 9th Life of Louis Drax” directed by Alexandre Aja. (Miramax/TNS)

“The 9th Life of Louis Drax” may be all over the map stylistically, but its cohesion in the face of its own near-death and rejuvenation is something of a miracle, too.

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THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX

3 out of 4 stars

Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Jamie Dornan, Aiden Longworth, Sarah Gadon

Rated: R (disturbing images, brief strong language)

Running time: 108 min.

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©2016 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Movie review: ‘9th Life of Louis Drax’ is more sinister than it first seems