‘Next Exit’ Movie Review: Mali Elfman Directs Afterlife Movie Road Trip

Despite taking big metaphysical leaps with its premise, Mali Elfman’s double is ultimately a retread of standard indie movie beats.

One of the great ironies of human existence is that death, the very thing we spend our lives trying to avoid, is the source of much of life’s meaning. This is one of the points made by Jean-Paul Sartre in “No Exit”, his landmark piece which follows three deceased humans whose eternal punishment is to be locked in a room and forced to make small talk forever. Our most precious moments are precious because they eventually expire – do anything long enough and it eventually becomes a chore.

As one would expect from its title, “Next exitconstantly riffs on Sartre’s dramatic existentialism and shares his interest in what happens when humans are confined together. Mali Elfmantakes place in a world where scientists have definitively proven that ghosts are real, with indisputable video evidence showing that we can come back to haunt the people we love (and hate) after we die. This news freed many people from their fear of death, but it also catalyzed a sea change in everyone’s priorities. Robberies have dropped to almost zero (holding someone at gunpoint just isn’t as compelling as it used to be), and news of a suicide is barely more notable than the latest baseball score .

The scientist who discovered this phenomenon (Karen Gillan) now runs Life Beyond, a popular assisted suicide program that meticulously ensures that its subjects can return as ghosts. He attracts Rose (Katie Parker) and Teddy (Rahul Kohli), two strangers with a death wish who find themselves accepted as research subjects. She is completely bored with human existence and ready to die, as he pursues the glory of participating in such an important chapter of humanity’s exploration of the universe. The only thing that separates them from death is a drive across the country to San Francisco.

It’s fascinating to imagine how human society would adapt to the news that life is no longer over, but Elfman’s film never quite lives up to the brilliance of its premise. Parker and Kohli both give great performances, but the majority of “Next Exit” is hard to distinguish from the standard road trip dramas that appear at Sundance every year.

Rose and Teddy meet at a rental car lot, where they both try to retrieve the vehicles Life Beyond was supposed to provide them. But even in a world where ghosts exist, the idea of ​​an efficient car rental company is just too far-fetched to be real. A logistical snafu forces them to share a car on their last road trip.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that they’re both about to die, the reluctant carpoolers immediately start getting upset. She just wants to get it over with, but he tries his best to enjoy the ride. Despite her irritation with her constant banter, they slowly begin to bond over a few long nights of drinking. Love is soon in the air, and the road to their own deathbed starts to feel a little less urgent. They find time to check out some fun bucket list items, and they help each other take on the family members who made them want to die in the first place. Despite fluctuating between life’s highs and lows, the journey makes a pretty compelling argument that what we have on this planet is better than being a ghost.

It’s never quite clear why Rose and Teddy despise each other at first, and their unrealistic banter leaves little mystery as to how they’ll feel about each other after their cross-country trip. And while Elfman does an extremely competent job of demonstrating how trauma has shaped their lives, both of their responses to that trauma seem better suited to our world than the one in the film. As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that these two characters are so focused on the events of their childhoods instead of, you know, the news that God is real.

This missed opportunity is what ultimately separates “Next Exit” from the best films about the pros and cons of life. From “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Harold and Maude,” movie history is filled with death-obsessed protagonists who ultimately choose to live on. But in these films, the choice is between existence and non-existence, with the characters ultimately deciding that something beautiful but imperfect is better than nothing.

The evidence of an afterlife that Rose and Teddy are blessed (or cursed) with complicates matters for them, but the film’s worldview largely ignores that fantasy in favor of a lesson applicable to our world. In “No Exit”, Sartre presents Hell as an eternity spent with others. In “Next Exit”, human relationships can be heaven because we don’t have an eternity.

Category B-

Magnolia Pictures will release “Next Exit” in theaters and on VOD on Friday, November 4.

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