Nine Lives

Nov 9, 2005 at 12:00 am

Director Rodrigo García does more with 10 minutes than other writers and directors do with 90. The son of Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, whose prose is rich and lush, the younger García has a more minimalist touch. Like he did in Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her and Ten Tiny Love Stories, García again pieces together short vignettes, mostly unrelated, to create an intense and emotional feature.

In Nine Lives, we get the stories of nine very different women, with each tale spun in one continuous, gorgeous shot. García, a former cameraman, uses all of his talents well, creating a film with nine distinct stops and starts that, because of the long shots, has a beautiful flow and grace. And he’s amassed a cast of both Oscar-winners and lesser-known but quite talented women, many whom are returning to his direction for the second or third time.

It’s no wonder Glenn Close and Holly Hunter would want to work with García again, or that Robin Wright Penn or Sissy Spacek would sign on to Nine Lives. Some of the vignettes work better than others, but most are powerful snapshots capturing, in real time, an emotionally charged moment in each woman’s life.

There’s a woman who shows up at the funeral for her ex-husband’s new wife, unwelcome by all but him; an estranged sister who misses her sibling but is unable to reconcile with her father; and a wife of a sick man who longs for romance, but remains loyal to her family.

While only a few of the nine characters are connected, there’s a deeper connection among them — all the women, though very different, are gripped with longing for something or someone, finding themselves at a crossroads where they must choose to let go or pursue their fancy.

The movie opens with the story of an inmate, Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo), struggling to stay on her best behavior, but losing it when a prison phone breaks down during one of her few visits with her young daughter. She longs to earn her freedom but yearns for that one moment with her daughter, and when denied, she explodes.

Other stories, like one involving Penn’s married and pregnant character Diana, are told more subtly yet still bear great emotional weight. Diana runs into an old lover in a grocery store. He’s also married, but quickly their polite chitchat turns into an exchange of passionate stares, admissions of desire and a fury of whys and what ifs.

García, with a simple scene, quickly uncovers the complexities of each character’s situation. One can miss and hate an ex, cherish and resent a sick loved one, and despise and defer to authority all at the same time. Like one character says, we are all just “dreams and bones.” We’re corporeal and metaphysical, contradictory by nature. Nine Lives reminds us that even when we think we’ve moved on, when we think we’ve found a resolution, there’s still a gray area where our emotions conflict.


The Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111).

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].