By Will Barber Taylor
7-year-old Saul just needs 9 steps to show his father that he is a real man. Because real men are not afraid of the dark.
Masculinity and the subject of “toxic masculinity” is one that has pervaded throughout culture in the last few years. The idea that following a stereotypical view of what a man can be can cause harm, not only to yourself but to others, isn’t a new idea. Yet in the world of #MeToo and pushing back against other abuses of power, it is a subject that has not only inspired a great deal of journalism but also narrative fiction. 9 Steps is one such creation and is, by far, one of the best.
Produced by Spanish directors Marisa Crespo and Moisés Romera, it focuses on a man (Jordi Ballester) who is annoyed that his son Saul (Pablo Muñoz) will not go to the bathroom without him in the dark. Saul’s father is determined to teach his son that he should not be afraid and that he is a man who isn’t afraid of anything – that his son should strive to follow this example. I won’t give away the brilliant central twist but Crepso and Romera ensure that you not only feel fear but also laughter and a clear demonstration that trying to impose your harsh views of masculinity on to your children will only backfire.
Both Jordi Ballester and Pablo Muñoz give terrific performances and they do feel like a real father and son. Ballester certainly expresses the air of an annoyed, angry father well and is convincingly intimidating. His reaction to the final twist is brilliantly realised and helps set the film as an all time classic of its genre.
9 Steps is a fantastic film and one I’d highly recommend. It deals with a series issue in a visually dynamic way and ensures that it is a cinematic experience that will stay with you for a long time to come.
You can read my interview with Marisa and Moisés here