The Discovery is a love story set in a world where the scientific discovery of an afterlife leads millions of people to commit suicide in an effort to get there immediately. The story revolves around the disapproving son of the scientist doing the research, their family, and a troubled young woman who is invited to reside and assist in the local research facility.
When the film begins, the dreary tone sets up a world made darker by the discovery of what humans have wondered about for all of time: what happens after you die?
We should start by asking “what doesn’t happen when you die?” or “what guesses have we taken before that were wrong?” This fundamental exercise in constantly questioning and correcting course in scientific research was totally ignored by the characters who are supposed to be amazing enough to make a breakthrough on this age-old question.
The film begins a year after the discovery is made, and to me, it signaled a disinterest in creating a film that would encourage asking the very real questions that, in this fiction, have been answered.
Even the “unanswered” questions behind love and its mysteries fell, hanging stale in the air after the credits rolled without any ample exploration. It weakened the integrity of the rest of the story, and while there were very well done moments of mystery, they rarely served the bigger picture of the nature of consciousness. Instead, they pointed to serve the end goal of the screenplay’s conclusion.
The script mixed a good deal of humor into the dark subject matter in an excellent way, using it more deliberately than just grabbing cheap laughs. It balanced suspense and comedy, creating space for shifting the shades of tone smoothly. The strong atmosphere added to the potency of the story and fit the world it
The plot itself, however, felt weaker because the answers don’t reveal themselves to you the way a mystery tends to unfold. Since we are presented without a foundation set up about the subject matter of which to base evidence, the mystery feels more like a maze that has one single path and a speed limit to keep you from solving it too fast.
It looked like we were going to experience a love story and an intelligent reflection on the nature of consciousness in The Discovery, but what we got was a darker rom-com in service of fuzzy feelings over greater experience.
Almost as if written backwards, the film’s closure of the mystery was what some would call a betrayal to
itself, but others might just settle for unsatisfactory. Overall, the film delivers on tonality, striking imagery, and great performances, including Jason Segel as a strong dramatic lead and Rooney Mara constantly proving that no matter how dismal and unflattering you make her characters, she’ll find a way to melt your heart.
However, my anticipation to see a riveting story that could look deeper into the very real subjects of consciousness and love may have gotten the best of me, because although the execution of crafting the story was well done, the ideas inside such a deep well for us to consider were left in that well and substituted for something much simpler and much less effective.
With no real takeaway to be had about consciousness and much of the emotional connection in the love story relying on telling each other about losing a loved one, the extremely promising premise falls flat from a great height, begging the question, “can a film commit suicide?” Yes. Yes it can.
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