Film Review: Nine Nights (2019)

Jo Martin and T’nia Miller face off brilliantly in this haunting film Nine Nights

“You’d better not be late…”

The Caribbean practice of Nine Night, essentially an extended wake, is perhaps less unfamiliar than it might be (in UK theatrical circles at least) due to the success of Natasha Gordon’s 2018 play Nine Nights. Veronica McKenzie’s 2019 film of the same time bears no relation, aside from the sad truth that mourning rituals endure because the need to mourn never ends.

Nine Nights (the film) focuses on the Haines family, ripped apart by an untimely tragedy. 16-year-old twins Michael and Marcie are tight as can be but when Michael is hit by a car and killed, Marcie refuses to believe that he is dead and their mother, always on the outside, is further isolated at this time of immense grief.

Thus the nine nights of mourning are started but as Marcie finds comfort in seeing and talking to her brother, her mother Leonore is lashing out at most anyone offering comfort, angry at a world in which her relationships are crumbling. Working through their grief requires unveiling long-held family secrets and it isn’t immediately clear that they will survive this.

Malcolm Atobrah and Mary Nyambura impress as the twins but the real joy is in Jo Martin’s Leonore and T’Nia Miller’s Sylvie facing off as revelations about the past come to light. McKenzie’s direction and Rick Stanton’s cinematography keep us rooted in a world of real pain rather than melodrama and the film is all the more effective for it.

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