The Discovery


Putting my own mortality to the test as an accident prone child, I’ve become acutely aware of it as I’ve gotten older. The everlasting debate of what happens to us after we pass from this life to the next is one that will likely never be factually, soundly proven. It’s just kinda a wait-n-see.

But what if we found out today? What if we were able to pinpoint the exact chain of events that occurs when we close our eyes for the last time? If it were scary, would scientists get off their duffs and finally curate an anti-death potion? What if it were Xanadu; all of your childhood dogs would be there and you could go wherever you wanted and be blissfully, effortlessly happy — would the fear fade into anticipation? Maybe even impatience?

The Discovery explores that very idea. Neurologist, Will (Jason Segel), is going home to see his brother, Toby (Jesse Plemons), and their father, Thomas (Robert Redford). He’s been away for some time and is not only unsure of what to expect, but anxious at what he’ll find when he arrives.

On a ferry to an island where his family now lives in light of recent events, he strikes up a lively debate with the only other passenger on board, Isla (Rooney Mara). She’s bleach blonde, spicy, and unfiltered. The two have a peppery debate about The Discovery; a recent, scientifically backed report of a confirmed afterlife. Going ashore, Isla bids Will a rather salty goodbye just as Toby arrives to collect him.

Tensions runneth over while Will begs his lead-footed and seemingly maladroit sibling not to runneth over any civilians.


Pulling up to what looks like a once opulent and prestigious home — now a kind of halfway house for folks affected by the astronomical influx of suicides following The Discovery — Will reunites with his father, Dr. Thomas Harber.


Dr. Harber, the great scientist behind The Discovery, is found hooked up to his own machine; always pushing forward with this devastatingly controversial idea of his. He and Will have a fraught relationship over his work, and Will has returned to beg him to stop.

Running into Isla again, it becomes clear that she needs help and she’s invited to live in the mansion. Together, the two begin working with Toby and Dr. Harber to literally project what a deceased person sees onto a screen. Through his desire to get his father to abandon this mission, Will becomes fascinated with the findings and an obsession ignites within him.


Still angry with his father for things that happened years ago, Will may conceivably begin to understand his father’s work even though it’s been plagued by the tragedy of so many lives lost to “get there”.

The premise of The Discovery is an interesting one. Our great debate of the afterlife has spanned human existence. With eventual death being an inevitable consequence of life, certainly we query what the grand payoff of living will be — or, perhaps even more salient — if there will be one at all.

The Discovery professes a weighty conviction that life — even one that is happy — would not be equal to the euphoria that may be found when it’s over. Given our current circumstances, I shudder to imagine what might happen were this to become reality. Sure, some of you may be saying, “It’s a movie. This ain’t real life, bby.”

And I know that, but as someone who used to lie in bed at 8-years-old, blood running cold at the thought of ultimate non-existence, it’s something I’ve given plenty of thought to. Do I hope that when I die there’ll be a house made of cheese with puppies also made of cheese waiting for me? Of course I do. Am I’m probably just gonna be chillin’ in the ground? Yeah.

All I’m saying is, it’s something to think about.

But I digress…

The Discovery is a well-written film thats postulation crumbles a bit toward the end leaving the audience bewildered. Writer and Director Charlie McDowell presents the premise in a thought-provoking albeit melancholy package without sapping the energy of the picture. Mara and Redford need to work together more often. The two share a firey compatibility on screen.


I was lucky enough to participate in a Q&A after the film featuring Chicago native writer/director/actor/Jack of all trades Joe Swanberg as moderator as well as Discovery writer/director Charlie McDowell and star Jason Segel.

Segel spoke candidly about his previous works and reflected on doing Freaks and Geeks as well as that scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Like so many actors who are typecast from a younger body of work, Segel exercised and showcased his range in The Discovery.


Normally if I don’t like a film, I’ll tell you to wait until it hits Netflix. I enjoyed this movie and I’m happy to say that you can watch it on Netflix right now if you want to! In fact, go do that. Oh, and fun fact, my friend over at, brilliantly asked Mr. McDowell about putting his mother, Mary Steenburgen in the film as she’d never been in one of his pictures before. She was so delighted that she cried when she got the call from Charlie’s people.

After the Q&A, The Blonde In Front and I were trying to snag some selfies with the guys, but their handlers wouldn’t let us close enough. Standing by the concessions, the three came right up behind us to chat amongst each other. We handled it like adults.

and even got to get a photo with the Director himself!


The Discovery is on Netflix currently! Go watch!


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