Netflix Original Film Asks About the After-life

In The Discovery Robert Redford and Jason Segel pair-up as a father-son duo trying to reconcile their pasts and alter their futures.

the discovery jason segel

Dr. Thomas Harber (Redford), a renowned physicist, discovers brain activity that leaves the body after death. Because of this ‘discovery,’ he has the evidence to prove an after-life. This unimaginable discovery makes breaking news all over the world. The impact is dreadful. The proof that life after death exists results in mass suicides.  Together entire families take their lives in order to start fresh in the next life.

Will (Segel) is scandalized by his father’s negligence. Harber refuses to take blame for the death-toll, yet forms his own boarding house for the suicidal. Will and his new-found companion Isla (Rooney Mara) thrust themselves into Harber’s cultic community. Will seeks to stop his father, but Harber plunges ahead to find out what the after-life actually entails. As they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” That same generational curse of questioning entrances Will—who makes a discovery of his own in the end. . . or perhaps the beginning.

Charlie McDowell and Justin Lader’s film The Discovery  tries to withhold straight answers.

lader mcdowell
Lader and McDowell

It asks a lot of questions. McDowell and Lader’s interesting questions are what drove me to see the film in the first place. During a Q&A writer Justin Lader expressed that this

projected started when he and McDowell began asking, ‘what if somebody proved life-after-death?’ Their answer inspected the underlying guilt and regret that we humans harbor. McDowell and Lader suggest that such a discovery could result in suicidal hysteria, in order to ‘get there,’ that is, to get to a fresh start—a place where people can redeem their past lives.

The first three-fourths of the movie are tantalizing. But, unfortunately the story drops off the deep end when it tries to wrap-up.

Without giving to much away—McDowell and Lader attempt to answer one question, ‘what’s the after-life like?’ and they throw in a twist on top of that. The Inception-ending spin-off is a really unfortunate conclusion to a such a unique story. The final scenes of the film constrict the imaginative freedom that the rest of the film works to create.
Regardless, I consider the film well-worth seeing and certainly worth your time. The Discovery moves into territory of fact/fiction, moral/immoral, certainty/faith. It doesn’t accomplish what it set out to do, asking questions rather than giving answers, but it forges a path into sincere inquisition and story exploration.

The Discovery is available on Netflix, March 31, 2017.

-K. Pastore

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