Louis Drax is an accident-prone nine year old. Having endured eight near-death accidents throughout his life, according to cat years, he would be on his last and is fully aware that he may never grow up before his time comes to an end. With this knowledge and history behind him, he finds himself in a coma after falling off the edge of a cliff, and the circumstances of which are left a vague mystery to be uncovered, including the related disappearance of his father. Was it an accident? Or was it something more? Amidst all this, his doctor becomes entranced with his mother, despite mysterious warnings to the contrary, and he finds himself in an unconscious journey of discovery with a creepy creature.
Tonally the movie is all over the place, which can make it feel a little uneven, but at the same time I felt it kind of worked. The movie opens with a montage of Louis' life told from a black comedy angle. Obviously what happens to him isn't exactly nice, but it's played for laughs. If you don't like black comedy, this opening sequence will turn you off immediately. This soon gives way to melancholy when the tragedy unfolds, which is about as much of a stark contrast as you can get. There's also some freakier moments revolving around the creature, a typically romantic tone between Pascal and Natalie, and in it's penultimate moments it shifts more into thriller territory. However, I never felt this was jarring at all. Every shift in tone suited the scenes perfectly, and evolved organically from one to the other.
It's central driving force is the mystery surrounding the circumstances of his fall, which inevitably culminates in a twist or two as the movie's finale approaches. The big twist isn't so much of a twist as it is a slow evolution over the course of the movie. It's not just signposted, it's actively developed as we go along and learn more and more about the characters and their own stories. The way this all comes to light can be a little hard to swallow, and doesn't take the time to explain itself, namely telepathy and the ability to talk to the dead. This is where the more fantastical elements of the movie come to the forefront, but due to the various shifts in tones, I didn't find this too much of a leap. It was obviously not attempting to be even remotely realistic. I just wish they gave some kind of explanation for it rather than just briskly moving on. There is another minor twist as well though, and I'll confess that did throw me for a loop, but I won't spoil that.
Aiden Longworth, Jamie Dornan, and Sarah Gadon do really well in their major roles, without particularly breaking any new ground. Dornan in particular seems a bit bland in most of his appearances, but I'm not sure whether that's down to him or what he was given to work with. It wasn't too much of a distraction either way. However the real stars are some of the more supporting actors. Oliver Platt and Barbara Hershey really tear up their limited screen time as Dr. Perez and Louis' grandmother respectively. And of course Aaron Paul does what he does best. The chemistry he shares with Longworth goes a long way to developing their father-son relationship and leads to one of the movie's most heartbreaking scenes. Again though, I couldn't shake the feeling that Paul was cast for his ability to cry on demand. I'm not saying it's a bad thing; I love seeing Aaron Paul cry in movies, as he's always so genuine with it, but I fear he's getting a little typecast and may be relying on it too much (not in this movie, just in general).
The big thing that drew me to the movie in the first place though was the visual quality, and while it's not quite as I expected, I can't say that I'm disappointed. Almost the entire movie is bathed in a dreamy glow, both the moments in dream or flashback, and the current events. It generally gave a very ethereal quality to everything. There was some differentiation between dreams/flashbacks and real life though and that was largely thanks to the colour pallet, particularly early on. Louis' happier moments are awash with golds and reds and other warm colours, while the more melancholic present day scenes had a cold, blue hue. The scenes with the creature also seemed to have a subtle hint of green to them as well.
Louis Drax is certain to be another one of those movies I put on the pile of 'movies I love that everyone else hates', but I don't care. It's story is intriguing with interesting developments as it goes along, despite it's missteps and shifts in tone, the character work is a good attempt even if it doesn't always land the mark, and it's visual appearance is a feast for the eyes even if it isn't particularly innovative or creative. I give Louis Drax a very good 8/10, but also acknowledge it's not a movie that will suit everyone's tastes. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I was also open to and prepared for something a bit off-the-wall.
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