If you knew there was an afterlife, would you kill yourself to get there? That’s the grand question behind The Discovery, a new film from writer/director Charlie McDowell (The One I Love) that’s currently streaming on Netflix (released on Friday, March 31st). It’s thought provoking, tragic, and engrossing. It’s slower paced but it keeps you guessing what this “discovery” means, right up until the very end. Also, feel free to turn my review into a drinking game. Every time I say “discovery”, take a shot.
The film beings with Thomas (Robert Redford) speaking to an interviewer (Mary Steenburgen) about his “Discovery”. Thomas has scientifically proven that there is indeed an afterlife, which has caused millions of people to commit suicide so they can “get there”. Not long after the interview has begun, one of the crew members gets up and thanks Thomas for the discovery, before shooting himself in the head. Is Thomas responsible for all these suicides? In his eyes he feels that people need to know the truth, but the truth has severe consequences. Arriving by a ferry on the two year anniversary of the discovery to visit his father Thomas, Will (Jason Segel, out of his comedic bubble) meets Isla (Rooney Mara), and they discuss how the discovery has affected them. Will is very upset by it and questions his fathers decision to announce it to the world, but Isla feels it’s an easy way out. She likens it to if someone you knew had cancer, they could just kill themselves and get a fresh start. It’s like hitting the reset button. Once the ferry has docked, they part ways. This won’t be the last time they meet either. Will is picked up by his brother Toby (Jesse Plemons) and they head out to the mansion where the experiments take place. Thomas is on the verge of being able to literally record the after life, and what they find isn’t what they were expecting. To say anymore would spoil the surprises, which for a slower paced movie, relies on these surprises to keep you engaged. Jason Segel & Rooney Mara have great chemistry together, and Robert Redford is terrific as this scientist that has been completely consumed by his work. It has not only affected him and his family, but the entire world. That’s quite the burden to bear. The supporting cast is great. Jesse Plemons as Toby provides some much needed comic relief for an otherwise pretty serious film.
I was really impressed by The Discovery. The subject matter it deals with is heavy, but it’s handled well. It is a bit slow in some parts, but I was constantly engaged and wanted to know what was going to happen next. It’s one of those movies you would have to watch again, because I’m sure there are plenty of things I missed during my first viewing. It’s well acted and directed. In an age where most movies are either remakes or sequels, The Discovery stands out as a unique gem. – NVJ