A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Discovery is a 2017 Netflix Original movie in which Robert Redford plays a scientist who has discovered the existence of the afterlife, a discovery resulting in millions of suicides. Within the first few minutes, a cameraman shoots himself in the head during a live televised interview with Redford's character. A woman attempts suicide by drowning in the ocean. Mass suicide -- a digital PSA sign posted in various locales throughout the film has the tally at over four million -- and suicide is frequently discussed; families in the grieving process due to the loss of loved ones to suicide are advised not to watch. Those suffering from depression are also advised to stay away -- the dominant color in the movie is gray, the characters and morose and humorless, and a bleak funereal pallor hangs over nearly every scene. A distraught woman shoots and kills another woman. Regular use of "f--k." Joint smoking, cigarette smoking. Overall, the premise is not developed , and as a result, there isn't even enough to inspire discussion with families about the afterlife, alternate realities, and suicide.
What's the story?
In the two years since scientist Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) proved the existence of an afterlife, over four million and counting have opted to get to the afterlife by committing suicide in THE DISCOVERY. During a live interview, his first in two years, Harbor says he doesn't feel responsible for these deaths; immediately after he says this, the cameraman takes a gun to his head and kills himself in front of millions of viewers. His son, a neurologist named Will (Jason Segel), believes his father bears responsibility (as well as himself, as some of his research inspired Thomas) and is on a ferry to a remote island to confront his father and tell him to undo the damage he has done and to declare his findings as false, in order to stop this massive suicide outbreak. On the ferry, he meets Isla (Rooney Mara), who looks familiar to him but he's not sure how. On the island, Will arrives at an off-the-grid mansion where his father conducts research in a cult-like atmosphere where everyone under his care has attempted suicide. Later, on a walk, Will saves Isla's life after she tries to drown herself in the ocean. Isla is taken into the mansion to live. In a meeting with everyone in the mansion, Thomas announces that he has created a machine that records what the dead see in the afterlife. Profoundly disturbed by his father's increasing messianic and cult-leader tendencies, as well as his inability to acknowledge the suicide of his wife and Will's mother, Will must find a way to figure out what this machine really shows, and what this might mean for his father, for Will, and for his mysterious connection with Isla.
Is it any good?
This should be a good movie, but the end result feels like a squandered opportunity and a frustrating failure. An interesting premise paired with talented and even iconic actors generally inspires high hopes and exceeded expectations. And when the end result falls far short of the movie's potential, as it does in this movie, the disappointment is equal only to how heavy and depressing the final product turned out to be.
(Spoiler) In case anyone was unsure of the mood of the movie after a cameraman commits suicide on live television by shooting himself in the head within the first five minutes, don't worry, because just about the rest of the movie has cadaver gray as the dominant color. And if that isn't enough, the actors deliver their lines in a narcoleptic stupor, dialogue so excessively somber and grim it makes the worst of Ayn Rand and M. Night Shamalayan seem breezy and lighthearted by comparison. There is no trace of humor as a coping mechanism -- the closest these characters get to release is by watching the beardo of the group sloppily strum indie-rock chords on his electric guitar. And how is religion, government, and society impacted by this discovery of an afterlife? It's not even touched on here. Unlike a movie like Children of Men, in which an equally fascinating and dire premise is fully explored with characters allowed to experience a spectrum of emotions beyond mere monotone bummer, the ramifications are hardly explored.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how in the premise of The Discovery over four million people have taken their own lives since proof was given that there is in fact an afterlife. How does this movie address suicide? How does it present the sufferings of characters whose loved ones have killed themselves?
In science fiction that speculates on the future, the best films, books, and television shows explore all the ramifications of a premise. Besides the mass suicides discussed in the movie, what else might happen with society, governments, and religion if the existence of an afterlife was scientifically proven? Why do you think these ramifications weren't touched on in this movie?
How was color used to set a mood? What are examples in other movies in which the dominant colors attempted to heighten the action and themes?
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