Cutting the cord has never been more appealing than the age we live in now. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have shown themselves more than worthy of creating original films and series. Netflix in particular has been absolutely killing it as of late with so much new original quality content it’s a bit difficult to keep up. However, that is no excuse to not see The Discovery. A film focusing on the poignant question of “what is the meaning of life, if the afterlife is real?” stays in your mind long after the credits roll. Though the story and pacing do fight around some issues, the feelings and thoughts raised from the ideas of the film have remarkable effect.
In a world plagued by massive suicide rates after a scientific breakthrough revealing that the afterlife is real, Neurologist Will (Jason Segal) finds himself depressed and lonely yet unable to give up. After meeting a troubled woman names Isla (Rooney Mara) who is somewhat on the fence about the value of life, it is revealed that Will is the son of the scientist who, ahem, discovered the discovery (Robert Redford). Though socially a controversial figure, Redford’s character is convinced he is only providing the truth that people need to know and accept. Will and Isla begrudgingly help him with his experiments and begin to learn more about what sacrifice is necessary to learn a truth perhaps better left buried.
Right off the bat, the premise and characters introduced are fascinating. Segal’s Will is a mopey grump but shows he is capable of less subdued emotion as he gets to know Isla. Speaking of which, Rooney Mara wonderfully captures the dark humor of someone who does not see the value in living life or leaving it, staying in an awkward limbo of existence. Redford’s Thomas Harbor takes the cake though, a man of science regardless of the consequence, deals with the social implications of the discovery in the manner of a man who is confident in his work but shaken by the death that surrounds it. The problems that arise come mostly from the script and pacing from writer/director Charlie Mcdowell. Many issues stem from drab dialogue or awkward plot points that feel shuffled in for effect more than meaning. The actors give it all they have but sometimes even they cannot sell it well enough.
The premise of the film is the main selling point, so it’s a shame that the final notes can’t live up to the potential. Rather than build up to a grand reveal or climax, the end putters out leaving questions less interesting than the ones that we started with. The relationships between the characters are where the real interest stems, particularly between Will and Thomas. Their strained father son dynamic is the gravity center of the film that the rest of the character relationships revolve around in sometimes intriguing ways. The only shame is that the film does not quite follow through with them. Regardless, the initial questions raised plus the excellent character relationships make The Discovery worth exploring. RDR gives it a 7 out of 10.