9 Songs Review

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After Matt (Kieran O'Brien) meets Lisa (Margo Stilley) at a rock concert, they embark on a torrid affair. Their interaction is almost entirely through increasingly adventurous and troubled sexual encounters, interspersed with trips to see bands playing at the Brixton Academy.


Michael Winterbottom's controversial two-hander sets out to show a relationship by focusing on the couple's sexual exploits. While clearly intended as experimental cinema rather than entertainment, it unfortunately fails badly, due to Winterbottom's choices.

Because what we see onscreen is unsimulated sex (including penetration and a money shot), he had to cast relatively unknown and, let's face it, less accomplished lead actors than he's used to. As a result, the performances are poor - made worse by the fact that the director encouraged former Grange Hill alum O'Brien (what would Mr. Bronson say?) and American actress Stilley to improvise their dialogue. The only thing more embarrassing than the unflinchingly graphic sex is the interaction between these unlikeable characters ("Do I look like a boy?" Lisa coos in one scene; "Yeah. That's why I like ya," replies Matt).

The drab dialogue and groin-grinding scenes leave us so unaffected that Winterbottom proves, intentionally or not, that such intimacy only leads to banal revelations. It's left to the musical interludes to provide the few moments of interest and emotional honesty in the entire film. The fact that Winterbottom's previous work has been so impressive only makes this hollow exercise more disappointing.

As an experiment, it's a failure. As pornography, it's untitillating. The only thing that saves this from the lowest rating is the music…