Warning: This post contains massive spoilers for the movie The Discovery, which is now available on Netflix, and discusses the ending in detail. Reader discretion is advised.
Rejoice: Heaven is for real. At least, that's the theologically questionable premise of The Discovery, Netflix's new science-fiction brain-teaser starring Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as the estranged son of a brilliant scientist (played by Robert Redford) who has "proven" the existence of an afterlife. A mass-suicide epidemic follows, with millions killing themselves in the hope of seeing the light on the other side. It sounds like hell on Earth.
Against this bleak backdrop, Segel's soft-spoken neurologist, Will, returns to life with his father in fog-drenched Rhode Island, where he falls for a woman with a dark past (Rooney Mara), participates in deadly-looking, Flatliners-y experiments, and gets caught up in a tech-mystery straight out of a Charlie Kaufman movie. Shit gets wonky.
If you saw director and co-writer Charlie McDowell's previous movie, the indie breakout The One I Love, this shouldn't be a surprise. The 33-year-old filmmaker specializes in synapse-busting stories that glide between comedy and drama, teasing out whoa-worthy questions explored on theory-ready shows like Westworld and The OA. But in talking to him, it's clear his ambitious films come from a more modest, human place. "Me and Justin Lader, my writing partner, try to approach everything from a character place," he explains over the phone. "It all felt like it came from the love story, which for me was always the most important story to tell in this film."
That's fair. There is a tender, witty relationship at the center of the movie. But there's also a labyrinthine, Nolan-like puzzle quality lurking underneath. In the hopes of filling in some of the gaps left by the film's mystifying finale, we grilled McDowell about the film's closing 15 minutes.