Nine movie cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Prakash Raj, Wamiqa Gabbi
Nine movie director: Jenuse Mohamed
Nine movie rating: 3 stars
In Christianity, number nine has a divine significance. It conveys the meaning of finality. The number is also the title of a new Malayalam film starring Prithviraj. By the way, what’s it with filmmaker Jenuse Mohamed and his fascination for numerical titles? After making a romantic film called 100 Days of Love, the writer-director returns with Nine, which combines the elements of science-fiction, horror, suspense and thriller. But it has a complex and engaging family drama at its heart.
Nine is set in the backdrop of a global event, which occurs once in several centuries. A huge comet crosses very close to planet earth leaving a trail of red streak in the skies. The cosmic event plunges the whole world into darkness and unleashes a dark entity that haunts Adam (charmingly played by young Alok), a seven-year-old boy who is the only son of astrophysicist Dr. Albert Lewis (Prithviraj).
The shards of the falling comet destabilise the earth’s magnetic field. For the next nine days, people cannot use anything modern, including mobile phones, internet, power supply and even vehicles with spark plugs. “Let’s become human again,” tells Albert to an auditorium full of terrified audience, who see the red comet as a harbinger of doomsday. While the folks in the urban area sweat over something that is beyond their understanding, tribes under the mountains of Himalaya live in fear. For tribes, it’s an evil entity from outer space, something their ancestors have encountered and recorded in the drawings inside their caves.
But, for Albert it is the time that he confronts his inner struggles about his son Adam who is considered “evil” by his relatives. Reason: Albert’s wife Annie (Mamta Mohandas) died in childbirth. He is also accused of crippling one of his cousins. Interestingly, astronomical events play an important part in Albert’s life. In the opening scene, we see a young Albert being prepared by his science enthusiast father (also Prithviraj) to watch an eclipse through the holes of the cardboard box. And during the red comet event, Albert gets to address his love-hate relationship with his seven-year-old son.
The dark sky and red trail represent bad omen for the majority in the world. For Albert, it signifies dark intentions and a bleeding heart. The beauty of Jenuse’s writing is he keeps the audience so occupied with such sprawling themes and emotions, we don’t see the major reveal in the end until it hits us in the gut.
The ominous background score, the shades of dark red and black that fills up the screen, a reference to a portal to another dimension, a shadow monster on loose, threat to the safety of a child, and a parent struggling to protect his son from the darkness. These motifs are reminiscent of Netflix hit Stranger Things. And still, this film offers a unique experience.
The big plus for this film is Jenuse’s confidence and clarity in narrating an intricate tale, which almost answers all of our questions despite its ambiguous ending.