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Next Exit (A Movie Review)

NEXT EXIT (2022)

Starring Katie Parker, Rahul Kohli, Rose McIver, Karen Gillan, Tongayi Chirisa, Diva Zappa, Tim Griffin, Jim Ortlieb, Nico Evers-Swindell, Gavin Powers, Joe Powers, Ty Molbak, Michael May, Tessa Hersh, Jim Ortlieb, Angel Murphy, Eric Hoff, Nerea Duhart, Sally Levi, Drew Brandon Jones, Lisa K. Wyatt, Joel Nevells, Ryan Patrick McGuffey and John Bishop.

Screenplay by Mali Elfman.

Directed by Mali Elfman.

Distributed by Magnet Releasing. 106 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2022 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Next Exit is an odd mix of science fiction, the supernatural, philosophy, romance, psychological study, family dynamics, suicide and old-fashioned road trip movie. Surprisingly with all those different fragments of stories pulling it in different directions, it nearly works.

But not quite.

Still, you have to give credit to first time feature film writer-director Mali Elfman. (She had previously directed several short films, extensively worked as a producer and actor and is the daughter of musician and film scorer Danny Elfman.) She certainly was not going timidly into her dream project. It’s an adventurous idea, and if in the end it kind of gets away from her, still kudos for trying.

Next Exit takes place in a vague near future in which mankind seems to have discovered a way to communicate with the spirits of the dead. This news leads many of the people of the world to lose their fear of death. This leads to a world-wide movement where some people sign up with a shadowy collective run by a famous doctor to give their lives and test the boundaries of this connection – stopping living so that they can visit (or haunt) their friends, loved ones (or enemies).

This seems a long way to go for the furtherance of pop science, in fact the whole project has a strong feel of the Heaven’s Gate cult. (Which was, no doubt, Elfman’s intention.) Needless to say it tends to attract some very fragile, confused and disturbed people.

Next Exit is the story of two of the “explorers” of this brave new world.

Rose (Katie Parker) and Teddy (Rahul Kohli) are two strangers who are accepted as “subjects” of the “testing” and must travel cross-country together to get to the headquarters of the Life Beyond program. (She has the rental car; he has the money.)

In typical road trip fashion, they despise each other at first, working on each other’s last nerves. (She’s dark, antisocial and cynical, he’s basically upbeat and friendly.) However, on the long trip in this strange new world they open up to each other, learn each other’s stories and actually come to care for each other.

We see where this is going, right?

We do, but Next Exit does take some interesting byways, side trips and offramps to get us to the eventual destination.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: October 23, 2022.

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