Next exit, 2022.
Written and directed by Mali Elfman.
Starring Katie Parker, Rahul Kohli, Karen Gillan and Rose McIver.
After humanity confirms the existence of an afterlife, a research scientist initiates a study in which volunteers painlessly commit suicide. Traveling from New York to San Francisco, two strangers share a rental car to end their lives.
In her feature film debut, writer-director Mali Elfman (daughter of composer Danny) delivers a fun, darkly comedic road movie that doubles as a meaningful meditation on guilt, depression, and mortality, notwithstanding its occasional tonal blunders.
In the near future, life after death has been proven beyond doubt, and scientist Dr. Stevenson (Karen Gillan) has launched a study in which volunteers are asked to be voluntarily euthanized to further examine background the phenomenon. Two of those volunteers are New Yorkers Rose (Katie Parker) and Teddy (Rahul Kohli), who due to a rental car mix-up take the long drive to Dr. Stevenson’s lab in San Francisco together. The initially icy and awkward dynamic slowly melts away as they inch closer to what could be their final destinations.
If conceptually reminiscent of the 2017 Charlie McDowell movie The discoveryElfman’s film quickly grabs attention in its own intriguing way, with an opening scene in which a young boy interacts with his father’s spectral form, visible only through specialized imaging technology.
However, don’t expect to see ghosts and high-tech excitement throughout Next exit, which instead explores its riveting concept through emotionally charged, lo-fi media. Elfman fleetingly considers how a revelation from the afterlife would revolutionize society: Unsurprisingly, murders and suicides have skyrocketed, and politicians are rushing to draft new legislation, but the focus is almost entirely on two tortured people. and with problems and the reasons why they decided to die.
The result is a continually engaging, if at times tonally unwieldy, effort that goes from utterly serious to outrageously funny in the blink of an eye, which may throw some viewers off. The wisecracking dialogue doesn’t always hit the mark, and there are moments where Rose and Teddy’s likability seems rushed, but the overall line sells persuasively regardless of solid work from leads Katie Parker and Rahul Kohli.
While the journey and its end result are hardly surprising, and some of the more dramatic moments border on the histrionic, the inner journeys of these two characters feel largely authentic; each has an overwhelming reason for wanting to undergo the experiment, and one for which the other serves as a sounding board.
Katie Parker is notable as the deeply cynical and aloof Rose, while Kohli sings as the happier, more outgoing, if still painfully haunted, Teddy. His naturalistic performances and his chemistry are the highlights of the film, without which it wouldn’t be so easy to come to terms with some of the biggest emotional questions in the script. Fortunately, there is a deep compassion that wells up from most moments in the story, giving viewers a path into the mindset of traumatized people and the experiences of those seeking death, albeit with a greater swathe of science. fiction.
Elfman’s cinema is also appropriately moody and understated for most, making it feel totally grounded in our own reality no matter how high-gloss the genre is. Ariel Marx’s airy score sets the mood, while Elfman’s famous father also contributes welcome additional music and themes. The final passage of the film. does it suffer a bit through some of its more ambitious visuals, as it’s clear the production lacked the budget for solid effects shots, but ultimately this is a fairly minor issue.
All in all, compelling character psychology and a riveting central double act ensure Next exit is, wait for it, a journey worth taking. Well-calibrated performances from Katie Parker and Rahul Kohli elevate this intriguing yet sometimes over-the-top existential sci-fi drama.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow Me On Twitter for more cinematic ramblings.