Nine Lives

Rated 4.0

Writer-director Rodrigo García, an accomplished short-form anthologist, builds loosely linked vignettes from moments of truth in the fictional lives of nine women, muses all. Garcia believes in close inspection of the everyday, and each tale unfolds in an unblinking single take. It allows the characters their mercurial dispositions, wavering between toughness and tenderness, between beatific buoyancy and eggshell fragility. These nine lives are shot through with grief and regret (“I’m tired” is a common refrain), and even the briefest glimpse leaves a poignant impression; as one male character observes, “Each woman is a universe.” Such overtness is among the film’s occasional minor flaws; others include Lisa Gay Hamilton lapsing into actorly contortions, and the general whiff, throughout, of film-school chic—which no doubt accounts for García’s gigs on Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. But terrific performances from Robin Wright Penn, Glenn Close, Dakota Fanning, Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek and others show his power as an actor’s director. That the movie’s truest moments occur nonverbally, in plays of silence, show his restraint.