In my favorite among the nonet of 10-minute scenes of women in crisis that make up the deeply satisfying feminine maypole dance billed, with mathematical precision, as Nine Lives, Robin Wright Penn plays a married woman, ripely pregnant, who runs into an old lover at a supermarket. The air between them is electric with unresolved feelings, and the woman truly doesn’t know which way to turn: She tries this aisle and that to find her emotional way, while the camera follows her agitated indecision in one unbroken take.
Writer-director Rodrigo García (Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her) trained as a cameraman, and his decision to present each segment in a single take enhances the be-here-now immediacy of every scene: Although each character holds the spotlight only briefly, she arrives as if with a life already in progress, and it’s easy to believe that she’ll keep busy even after the credits roll.
What could have been a parlor game becomes a surprisingly rich sketchbook, boosted by the work of fine actors invigorated by the opportunity to create character without hearing ”Cut!” Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Amy Brenneman, and Lisa Gay Hamilton join the troupe, and Sissy Spacek is especially affecting as a middle-aged woman on the verge of adultery. This movie is, by the way, not just an ovarian jungle: The equally strong male cast includes Stephen Dillane, Joe Mantegna, Ian McShane, and Aidan Quinn.