Nine Lives

Essentially nine short films strung together by a common theme, Rodrigo Garcia's glimpses into the lives of ordinary women are beautifully acted and emotionally devastating. Prison inmate Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo) looks forward to a visit from her young daughter, but bureaucratic incompetence conspires to ruin their few minutes together. Diana (Robin Wright...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Essentially nine short films strung together by a common theme, Rodrigo Garcia's glimpses into the lives of ordinary women are beautifully acted and emotionally devastating. Prison inmate Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo) looks forward to a visit from her young daughter, but bureaucratic incompetence conspires to ruin their few minutes together. Diana (Robin Wright Penn), married and pregnant, runs into her also-married ex-boyfriend, Damian (Jason Isaacs), at the supermarket and their brief encounter dredges up painful memories. Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton), terribly damaged and shaking with rage, comes home to confront her father; he's at work, so she pours out her inchoate fury to her younger sister (Sydney Tamiia Poitier). Sonia (Holly Hunter) and her husband, Martin (Stephen Dillane), visit friends Damian and Lisa (Molly Parker) in their new apartment and wind up publicly airing their private sorrows. Bright, articulate teenager Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), postpones her own life to run interference between her frustrated mother, Ruth (Sissy Spacek), and wheelchair-bound father, Larry (Ian McShane), who suffers from a progressive illness. Embittered, sharp-tongued Lorna (Amy Brenneman) has a highly inappropriate encounter with her ex-husband (William Fichtner) at the wake for his second wife, who may have committed suicide. Ruth returns in her own segment, caught in a tangle of anticipation and reluctance as she meets philosophically inclined Henry (Aiden Quinn) for a hotel-room tryst. Camille (Kathy Baker), about to undergo a mastectomy, takes out her rage, terror and frustration on her patient husband, Richard (Joe Mantegna). And Maggie (Glenn Close) visits a cemetery plot with her precocious daughter (Dakota Fanning). Each vignette is shot in one continuous take, and is driven by both the knowledge that life must move forward and the reality that each of the women is fixated on some past event that keeps her tethered in place. Garcia, the son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, doesn't weave the stories together, but some intersect — Diana's ex Damian is married to Lisa; Holly's father, prison guard Ron (Miguel Sandoval), has a complicated relationship with Sandra — and other characters occasionally stray briefly from one into another. Holly, whom we first see at the end of her emotional rope, reappears briefly as a nurse who deals calmly with Camille's rage; Lisa crosses paths with Lorna at the wake; Lorna's mother (Mary Kay Place) is Camille's anesthesiologist. The overall impression is of lives that began before Garcia started shooting and continued after the camera was shut off, a remarkable and quietly haunting achievement.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Essentially nine short films strung together by a common theme, Rodrigo Garcia's glimpses into the lives of ordinary women are beautifully acted and emotionally devastating. Prison inmate Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo) looks forward to a visit from her young d… (more)

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