The Discovery Review: A Fantastic Finding
I wish there were more films like The Discovery out there for us to watch. What I just witnessed is an anomaly, a gem of modern day indie filmmaking, a risk only Charlie McDowell (The One I Love) could take. This is no masterpiece, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t captivated, if not floored by the latest Netflix original film that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
The Discovery follows controversial scientist, Thomas Harbor, (Robert Redford) who uncovers scientific proof that there is indeed an afterlife. His son Will, (Jason Segel) who’s not too sure about his father’s “discovery,” meets Isla (Rooney Mara) on a ferry to a foggy island. After the two strike up a conversation, they meet again moments later as Will saves Isla from an attempted suicide. The thing is, with Dr. Harbors discovery of this afterlife, suicides have gone up to over four million people in just two years, following an on-air suicide during an interview a reporter was conducting with Dr. Harbor.
Without getting into spoilers, the rest of the film is to prove Harbor’s afterlife, with different experiments to willing participants. The Discovery is not a movie you watch freely in the middle of a Sunday to pass the time by. This is a story that requires thought throughout and long after the ending. I still don’t fully understand what happens, and I don’t think I need to. The ending was satisfying enough to interpret in a multitude of ways, without being an overly pretentious artsy cliffhanger.
The performances are nuanced all around, fitting with the dark and gloomy aesthetic of the cinematography. Jason Segal isn’t poised for Oscar gold as a dramatic actor just yet. Truth be told, he may be the weakest link from an acting standpoint in the film. The chemistry between him and Rooney Mara isn’t terribly believable, but Mara is outstanding as the troubled and layered Isla. She plays the nonchalant role with ease at this point in her career, but in The Discovery it works to the scripts favor. Her odd quips and quirkiness are endearing, giving her that extra flair in a mostly cold story.
The standout, of course, is the infamous Robert Redford. The opening scene in which the initial interview is taking place is some of the best work Redford has done in years (this is coming from a guy who cried during his monolog in Petes Dragon). The wit and charm that comes naturally to the iconic actor never cease to amaze me. His internal arc and struggle is a fascinating aspect of The Discovery, one I wish went deeper than what was shown. Jesse Plemons is also excellent as Harbor’s other and more eccentric son, Toby. Plemons has proven time and time again that he is a forced to be reckoned with post-Breaking Bad.
Without treading into spoiler terrain, the central message of The Discovery is one to be unraveled as the narrative progresses. Frankly, it’s all about how well you can read between the lines and see things for how you see them, not as how they should be viewed. I found the ending to be not only poetic but meaningful to me personally. Once revealed what is going on, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. So much was happening, with beautiful imagery, dialogue, and a terrific score, it was simply brilliant. I was so emotionally involved in this world McDowell created, I didn’t want it to end.
If you liked The One I Love and are looking for something a bit deeper, with a wonderfully crafted story that only gets better by revisiting it, then please watch The Discovery on Netflix on March 31st. It’s not for everyone, but what film is?
The Discovery will be available to stream on Netflix on March 31st, 2017