27 February 2006 | gradyharp
The Kind of Movie Making that Restores Faith in the Medium
Columbian director and writer Rodrigo García (Things you can tell just by looking at her, multiple episodes of Six Feet Under, Carnivale, The Sopranos, Fathers and Sons, etc) does what few writer/directors are capable of: García observes the human condition, finds the stories that such observations suggests, fleshes out these ideas into vignettes, and then weaves them into a tapestry of a film that is simply breathtaking.
NINE LIVES is simply the reporting of nine women and their surrounding characters who are coping with an emotional crisis involving relationships with a parent, child, lover, husband, or sister and the manner in which each woman deals with keeping her life intact despite the trials of everyday living. Imagine walking down a street, as a flaneur, observing glimpses of a person and conversation that lasts only as long as the time you approach, pause and pass on by and you have an idea of the technique García uses. These little short stories are the stuff of life we all encounter: García pauses long enough to let them make an impact.
Part of the beauty of this film is the sterling cast which includes some of our finest actors - Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, K Callan, Glenn Close, Stephen Dillane, Dakota Fanning, Holly Hunter, Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Ian McShane, Mary Kay Place, Aidan Quinn, Sissy Spacek, Robin Wright Penn - the list goes on. There is a sense of ensemble commitment to this film despite that only occasionally do the characters overlap. The writing is terse, understated, always saying just enough to arrest our attention before moving on, much the way life keeps passing. A very fine work, and one that reminds us that great movies from quiet stories come. Grady Harp