Video Vault: Nine Lives

“Nine Lives”
2005 – Rodrigo Garcia

Rated R – 115 mins.
Vault Rating: 7

Elpidia Carrillo – Sandra

Robin Wright Penn – Diana

Lisa Gay Hamilton – Holly

Holly Hunter – Sonia

Amanda Seyfried – Samantha

Amy Brenneman – Lorna

Sissy Spacek – Ruth

Kathy Baker – Camille
Glenn Close – Maggie


Here’s one of those “Whoa, Life!” movies that aims for a little more poignancy than this little film can probably bear. Still, the film comes recommended by a good mosaic style script and nine outstanding performances by the nine outstanding actresses listed above.

The film is separated into nine chapters, or glimpses into each woman’s life, and each perspective is decidedly feminine and surprisingly frank in that scary way that women only show to one another. This is not to suggest the film goes about male-bashing. It does not. It recognizes that relationships are an important part of life in the same breath that it recognizes those waters can be tricky to navigate.

For instance, when Lorna attends the viewing of her ex-husband’s wife you easily get the idea that she’s a polarizing figure there.

“They say she killed herself,” says one confidant.

“A woman can’t kill herself,” she replies.

While Lorna coldly discusses relationships with another friend in a mausoleum — “You wake up one morning and you rinse them off,” she says — we nevertheless see behind her brave face.  And by the end of the chapter on Lorna, we’re presented with a surprising emotional palette.

Looking over it all, each vignette has much to do with daughters and parenting relationships.  One couple is infertile while another is cursing the luck of a pregnancy.  One daughter, who turns out to be a healer, returns home to square up her awful secrets with her father.

Another woman, Sandra, is an incredibly strong person, even as she endures prison for the second time.  “The first time was a mistake,” she tells another inmate.  But her weakness is revealed in a visit from her daughter.

Another daughter, Samantha, is a bright college age girl who is putting off her own life in order to remain the glue in her parents’ lives.

Director Rodrigo Garcia gently interlocks each chapter like a puzzle piece, slowly revealing women in one light, then rotating them into another, but never telling us too much. Threads of lives are left running in every direction and there isn’t enough celluloid in the world to take all of that in.  And that’s a good thing. Too much information, or even reasonable answers observed up close, would distract from the mosaic as you back away from it and see it whole.

I took the liberty of posting the principal actresses above, because each delivers consistently, subtly and powerfully to a degree I’m not used to seeing.  This is really an all-star ensemble of formidable quality.

“Nine Lives” is one of those quiet little movies that Video Vault lives to reveal. It is the Mister Right that you once passed on. And when one lonely copy appears on the new release racks, it threatens to disappear quickly before a movie lover finds it. You’ll find it at Adventure / Silver Screen, and if you can’t find it, ask. You’ll thank me tomorrow.

Hey! You’re welcome! And so are your comments. Drop us a line at and we’ll post your picks and pans in the Vault Mail.  And until Mr. Right does come along … Enjoy!


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