No Exit Movie Review: Mali Elfman to Direct Afterlife Road Trip Movie

Despite some major metaphysical vacillations with its premise, Mali Elfman’s Zweihander is ultimately a retread of standard indie film 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 purpose. That’s one of the points Jean-Paul Sartre addresses in “No Exit,” his groundbreaking play that follows three deceased people whose eternal punishment is being locked in a room and forced to converse forever. Our most treasured moments are precious because they eventually pass – do it long enough and it eventually becomes a drudgery.

As the title suggests, Next Exit constantly taps into Sartre’s dramatic existentialism and shares his interest in what happens when people are locked together. Mali Elfman’s directorial debut is set in a world where scientists have definitively proven ghosts are real, with undeniable video evidence showing we can return to haunt the people we love (and hate) after we die . This news has liberated many people from their fear of death, but it has also triggered a dramatic shift in everyone’s priorities. Robberies are down to almost zero (holding someone at gunpoint just isn’t as convincing as it used to be), and news of a suicide is little more remarkable 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 its subjects can return as ghosts. It attracts Rose (Katie Parker) and Teddy (Rahul Kohli), two strangers with a death wish who are accepted as research subjects. Completely bored with human existence, she is ready to die while he pursues the glory of taking part in such an important chapter of humanity’s exploration of the universe. The only thing standing between them and death is an overland trip to San Francisco.

It’s fascinating to imagine how human society would adjust to the news that life is no longer finite, but Elfman’s actual film never quite lives up to the brilliance of its premise. Parker and Kohli both give excellent performances, but most of “Next Exit” is hard to distinguish from the usual road trip dramas that pop up in Sundance every year.

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

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that they’re both on the brink of death, the reluctant carpooling immediately gets on each other’s nerves. She just wants to get it over with, but he’s trying his best to enjoy the ride. Despite their irritation at his constant banter, they slowly begin to bond after a few long nights of drinking. Soon, love is in the air and the drive to their own deathbeds begins to feel a little less urgent. They find time to tick a few fun things off their bucket list, and they help each other confront the family members who made them want to die in the first place. Though the journey oscillates between the highest highs and the deepest lows of life, it makes a pretty compelling argument that what we have before us on this planet is better than being a ghost.

It’s never quite clear why Rose and Teddy initially despise each other, and their unrealistically acrimonious banter leaves little mystery about how they’ll feel about each other after their overland trip. And while Elfman does an extremely competent job of demonstrating how trauma has shaped her life, both responses to that trauma seem more appropriate to our world than the film’s. As the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that these two characters are so laser-focused on events from their childhood, rather than the news that God is real.

That missed opportunity ultimately separates Next Exit from the best movies about the ups and downs of life. From It’s a Wonderful Life to Harold and Maude, cinematic history is filled with death-obsessed protagonists who ultimately choose to live. But in these films there is a choice between existence and non-existence, with the characters ultimately deciding that something beautiful but flawed is preferable to nothing.

The evidence of an afterlife that Rose and Teddy are blessed (or cursed) with complicates things for them, but the film’s worldview largely ignores that fantasy in favor of a lesson applicable to our world. In “No Exit,” Sartre depicts hell as an eternity spent with other people. In “Next Exit,” human relationships can be heavenly because we Not have an eternity.

grade B-

Magnolia Pictures brings Next Exit to theaters and VOD on Friday, November 4th.

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Lindsay Lowe

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