The Discovery Review

The Discovery (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

Director: Charlie McDowell
Writers: Justin Lader,  Charlie McDowell
Stars: Robert Redford, Jason Segal, Mary Steenburgen,  Brian McCarthy, Rooney Mara

A Scientist played by Robert Redford discovers proof of the existence of an afterlife and after a subsequent increase in a worldwide rate of suicides to experience an existence on another plain. Will (Jason Segal) heading back to visit his Dad Thomas (The Scientist) Will meets Isla (Rooney Mara) on an empty ferry to the small seaside town.

Thomas has since retired and if not for his unfinished work would become a recluse. He now lives in the small seaside town to an isolated house since his discovery which is aided by people who attempted suicide. It’s here Thomas works tirelessly on attempting to record what happens in the moments after death by flat-lining.

The Discovery is an interesting although somewhat unique story about a scientific breakthrough on the meaning of life and death and how it has changed everything. It also pushes the boundaries on human belief whether it’s on a spiritual or religious level. Don’t get me wrong the movie isn’t preachy and to be fair remains on a scientific level throughout the movie.

The premise of this movie was a great one and although there hints of a love story between Will and Isla, the main focus is on “The Discovery”

Robert Redford appears to be having another rebirth in his movies over the past few years kicking off with his appearance in Captain American: The Winter Soldier in 2014 and following that up with Pete’s Dragon two years later, in much the same way Spy Game did for his career back in 2001. Here Redford plays a Scientist who is on the verge of something big but as we discover there are personal reasons for his determination in his research in relation to what happened to his wife a few years before “The Discovery”

Jason Segal as Will again shows his diversity in acting and I still feel impressed by his performance in “The End Of The Tour” as David Foster Wallace and here although subdued throughout the majority of film is the anchor of the story and keeps it moving along whilst everything around him is slowly changing. His chemistry with his onscreen Dad at times is cold and Segal conducts himself in that manor convincing as Will tried to distance himself from his fathers work. Again his chemistry with Rooney Mara is sweet, it’s not overbearing and soppy. There appears to be a mismatch though with Jesse Plemons’s character Toby who is Will’s brother. This isn’t a dig at Plemons acting, in fact he at times to me offered a little comic relief, but not in an obvious way but although it’s hard to read the chemistry between Segal and Plemons this is really because the two characters are so different to each other and there doesn’t appear to be much common ground between them.

Rooney Mara reminded me of Kate Winslet’s Clementine in 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Her role is even more subdued than Segal’s and comes across as in control of the relationship between them. Mara at times offers a dark comedy value also to the same level as Plemons but you sense the character has a past and a tragic one at that.

Writers Justin Lader and Charlie McDowell (who also directed) I felt did a really good job of taking a really simple storyline and expanding on the consequence of such a discovery and how it would effect the characters central to the movie. Lader and McDowell would also drop a little two lines into the third act that although revealed a kind of backstory and tragedy to Isla’s past would end up the little twist at the end although bittersweet gave the audience a satisfying conclusion to the story and to Isla’s story.

I always feel that when the Director is part of the writing behind a film you have a solid basis to work on knowing the director has a clear vision on what they want this movie to be like. Here is no different as Charlie McDowell nails the look to the movie giving it a look and feel that reminds me of the pacing to External Sunshine or even The Lake House with a very somber atmosphere and feel but keeping the audience interested.

The Discovery perhaps may come across as a little creepy (especially in its synopsis) but in reality portrays an uplifting and emotional storyline that will keep you interested for its 1 hour and 42 minutes duration. This movie only came out in the U.K. yesterday (31st March 2017) on Netflix and I believe it will and should get a good rating from that audience I recommend this movie highly.

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