Next Exit (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Next Exit (2022) Review

Horrorific content by christina on June 20th, 2022 | Movie Review | Comedy, Road Trip, Supernatural, Sci-Fi, Drama, Thriller

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It's about two people who discover themselves and each other on a road trip that ends with their passage to the after-life.

Next Exit was directed by Mali Elfman and stars Katie Parker (Conventional, Absentia), Rahul KohliRose McIverKaren Gillan (Conventional, Oculus, and Outcast), Tongayi Chirisa, and Diva Zappa.

Next Exit (2022) Review

Mali Elfman's directorial debut, Next Exit, tells the story of a world in which the question of life after death has been answered in the affirmative. Next Exit introduces us to a society that has embraced the existence of ghosts, particularly those of departed loved ones. Although not all spirits are benevolent, Elfman's supernatural drama uses life after death as a way to explore life and past traumas through a heartwarming road trip movie.

Rose and Teddy, two strangers, meet at a car rental place. They have planned long drives from New York to San Francisco for appointments with Dr. Stevenson and her revolutionary scientific study Life Beyond. This film follows Dr. Stevenson as she helps people who want to die do so painlessly to study the afterlife and how ghosts interact with our mortal world. Rose and Teddy have very different personalities and motivations, but spending their last days together creates strong bonds between them as they confront their pasts.

This world of ghosts is cast in pale, washed-out lighting by Elfman. It's a wintry road trip for Rose and Teddy, but the coldness is as much inside them as it is outside. It parallels the slow thawing of their relationship. What starts as a cynical, unstable partnership out of necessity eventually becomes something much more complicated and lovable. The supernatural element is only secondary and supplemental to Elfman's character-centered dramedy. The ghosts sometimes scare the living, but this is a story about them.

That's more prevalent with Rose, a demanding and unapproachable character still very much upset by figurative ghosts from her past. Opposite her is the more content and cavalier Teddy, with very different reasons for this Life Beyond appointment. Rose and Teddy often argue and butt heads until various events and experiences along the way lead to them finding common ground and appreciating each other. It's a romantic comedy story set against the backdrop of the afterlife and suicide thoughts.

Parker and Kohli infuse the film with an effortless charisma that makes you want to root for them from the outset. Next Exit may present a world with a definitive afterlife, but it's not interested in exploring any answers. As Rose and Teddy come across hitchhikers who are suicidal, veterans who have PTSD, and priests with a positive outlook, Elfman wants to show that nobody knows what they're doing or has all the answers to life's questions. Instead, she is more concerned with how these encounters affect her main characters personally. As entertaining and delightful as they are, Parker and Kohli's performances make you care about their characters, even when they seem not to care for themselves.

Worth Watching? 

Despite its dismal kickoff, Next Exit tries to stir up positive feelings. It's not just the personnel that brings to mind Mike Flanagan's earlier projects but also the dreary speeches and overviews of life presented through a supernatural lens. It's a delightful dramedy that streamlines the scale and style. However, it never gets too philosophic or cerebral with its ponderings, and the pacing can slacken. Instead, Next Exit is a project that allows Parker and Kolhi to show off their talents. It's less about the afterlife and more about their outstanding performances and chemistry. You might wonder why they aren't more famous after watching this.

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