Review: Netflix’s “The Discovery” Takes On the Afterlife
One of the biggest fears that is inherent in pretty much everyone is what happens to us after we die. No matter how bad this physical life we are currently living in gets, anything is better than the unknown. There have been multiple books, movies, television shows and religions that have attempted to come up with a theory of what happens when we pass on, but the reality of the situation is none of us will know for sure until we go through it.
“The Discovery”, the new dark sci-fi film from Netflix, is about what would happen if someone actually scientifically proved that there is indeed life after death. Thomas (Robert Redford) is the doctor that proves there is something to look forward to and what he thinks is good news actually causes people to start killing themselves in order to get to this promised land quicker. Despite millions of suicides across the globe, Thomas knows that if he stops his quest to truly prove there is something more after this life ends that he will be held responsible for all of the lives lost. His two sons, Will (Jason Segel) and Toby (Jesse Plemons) fall on either side of the fence. Will thinks this is all a horrible mistake that his father needs to put an end to, while Toby works tirelessly alongside his father to get to the truth. Meanwhile, a young woman named Isla (Rooney Mara) meets Will on his way back home and leaves a lasting impression on him. Their paths cross again when Will finds her on the beach attempting to drown herself in the ocean. Saving her life, Will brings Isla back to his family home where she becomes further entrenched and mesmerized by Thomas’s findings and ongoing research.
The script by Justin Lader and Charlie McDowell is a smart and captivating one. It’s a challenge to take on a subject of this caliber but they’re able to add in enough interesting subplots to make this more than just a film based around a science fiction theory. There’s the relationship between the brothers and their relationships with their father, you have the romance between Will and Isla that almost feels like its destined to not work out from the beginning, and then the backstory of what caused their mother’s death and why Will blames his father for it. You also have the grim fact that everyone around them taking their own lives because of what Thomas has said is fact.
Charlie McDowell’s direction is just as dark, gritty, and moody as the story it’s following. Even when the characters are inside it feels like they’re surrounded by rain clouds and darkness and that setting really lends a tension to the film that serves as an almost foreshadowing of what we’re about to go through. You will never please every movie viewer with a theory of the afterlife. It’s almost as impossible as knowing for sure that there is one to be theorized about. And while the ending to this film did feel a little cheaper than what I thought they were building up to, it’s still a movie that I would highly recommend.
Despite the actors being top notch in this movie, and Jason Segel once again returning to a more brooding character than the comedic ones he became famous for, it’s really Jesse Plemons that stands out above the rest. His character is just quirky and interesting enough that I found myself just wanting the movie to follow him around. A mess of bracelets adorn his left wrist, his long hair and beard cover most of his face, and a cigarette is always hanging from his lips, yet he has this charm about him. Almost like his hope in his father is enough to not let him get weighed down by the seriousness of the situation and I, as the audience, was able to escape the gravity of the situation through him.
Netflix has once again added a strong, interesting, and must-watch film to the their catalogue. With more original films on the way, “The Discovery” is just a small sample of the quality of entertainment we’re going to get from the streaming company and that’s the best news I could give you.
I mentioned above that the ending felt a little cheap to me; like the movie built this complex foundation and then almost took the easy way out when explaining what it all meant. Upon stumbling upon a video (which I will post right after this writing) I’ve realized that it just went over my head. That despite how complex I felt the writing was through the whole thing, I still didn’t give it enough credit for how smart it was. As soon as you watch the film, check out this video that explains the ending and go back and watch the film again with a new perspective. It’s definitely worth your time and could open up a conversation between you and anyone you may have watched it with. Enjoy.