is still essentially agnostic. It makes no promises of harps and angels.
However, Dr. Thomas Harber claims to have proof that after death, human
consciousness leaves for a different plane of existence, the details of which remain
unknown. As a result, tens of millions of people have committed suicide in anticipation
of a fresh start. Yet, karma is still karma in Charlie McDowell’s The Discovery (trailer here), which screens during
the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
million plus have already taken their lives after “The Discovery,” but Harber
is not inclined to take responsibility or show remorse. After all, they will go
on somewhere, right? Perhaps he is also somewhat desensitized to suicide after
his wife took her own life, pre-Discovery. Of course, that is why he is so
driven to establish the specifics of the afterlife or whatever.
semi-estranged son Will has come to his cult-like research institute hoping to
convince the scientist to recant his claims. On the ferry to chilly, off-season
Newport, Will encounters the mysterious Isla. Having sensed something dark
hanging over her, Will manages to intervene during her suicide attempt. His
father rather takes a liking to her too, so he agrees to take her on as a
research subject/associate/cult member. Meanwhile, the junior Harber makes a
discovery of his own that not necessarily contradicts his father’s, but radically
alters its implications.
terms of its metaphysical aesthetics, Discovery
is not wildly incompatible with Matheson’s What Dreams May Come. It is safe to say karma plays a role, but it
would be spoilery to spell it out. Still, it is probably safe to say McDowell
and Justin Lader’s screenplay takes a radically unexpected turn, but it will
not leave viewers dispirited. Quite the contrary.
Jason Segel and Rooney Mara do some of their best work to date as Will and
Isla. They are both convincingly smart and damaged, so it really feels like
their relationship develops organically. Although it almost goes without
saying, Robert “Sundance Kid” Redford’s Dr. Harber has all kinds of gravitas
and presence. Yet, maybe the biggest surprise is Jesse Plemons’ humanistic,
sneaks-up-on-you turn as Will Harber’s deceptively slacker-ish brother Toby.
Discovery is an unusually smart film that
features some provocative speculation but never skimps on character
development. It is a worthy follow-up to McDowell’s crackerjack debut, The One I Love. Highly recommended, The Discovery screens again tomorrow
(1/27) and Saturday (1/28) in Park City, as part of this year’s Sundance.
Labels: Charlie McDowell, Robert Redford, Sundance '17