The Discovery

This new high-concept sci-fi/fantasy by Charlie McDowell imagines a world in which Robert Redford’s scientist-come-reclusive-cult-leader Thomas Harbor has proved that the afterlife exists – although how he’s managed to do this is never made clear – and the suicide rate has subsequently rocketed, as those tired of this mortal coil decide to shuffle off in search of what lies beyond. Instead of exploring that world to the full, the action centres on Redford’s lab and mansion, where people who have failed in their suicide attempts wear colour-coded boiler suits and work on trying to discover what exactly the afterlife actually entails. Enter Harbor’s son Will (Jason Segel), who arrives via a ferry with a grudge and a new acquaintance, a mysterious woman played by Rooney Mara. Cue an-hour-and-a-half of tedious conversation, clumsily-delivered exposition and the occasional reveal to keep things mildly interesting, as well as a gloomy colour palette that makes everything seem royally miserable. Segel frowns his way through the movie, perhaps trying to figure out what to do with the hokum being thrown his way, and I lost count of the number of times I saw him stare somewhere off-camera with furrowed brow; by contrast Mara and Redford seem more engaged with the material and their characters, though ultimately both of their performances are sunk by the script. McDowell has aimed for something similar to Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, perhaps with a hint of Chris Marker’s La Jetée or even Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners in the mix, though sadly his lead’s performance is uncharismatic, The Discovery is paced so slowly it quickly becomes tedious, and the intriguing concept is barely explored at all. A shame, really, as his previous film The One I Love was a quirky treat. (*½)