Netflix, that behemoth of the streaming industry, has been making some rapid inroads into movie distribution of late. One of their latest and most intriguing-sounding prospects is a movie called The Discovery. There has been a scintillatingly sparse drip feed of information about the project over the past year or so—with the biggest news being the initial casting of Nicholas Hoult, and his subsequent replacement by Jason Segel.
Now Netflix has dropped a trailer for the movie. Really, though I watch far too many of them, I am not a fan of trailers. They distort expectations, reveal plot beats, and just in general ruin things in oh so many ways. So it’s a really pleasant experience when one arrives that is as well put together and as deliciously obtuse as this one.
Before watching it, I would advise: if you intend to see this movie, watch this trailer, and then read no further here, or anywhere else, because the smart money is on this particular story being experienced with as blank a slate as possible.
Still here and still reading?
Damn, what a tonal rug-pull huh?
Talk about teasing a twee indie romance before turning a corner down an abandoned corridor of dread. If you have been keeping up with the development of The Discovery then the name Charlie McDowell should have been a clue that the start of that trailer would be a big fat red herring. Why? Well, McDowell’s previous project (and debut feature) was 2014’s The One I Love—a shifty and twisty piece co-starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass as a couple attending a secluded retreat in an effort to save their rapidly degenerating marriage. If you have seen The One I Love then the tonal shift in The Discovery’s trailer would have come as no surprise; if you haven’t seen it, then you should a) do so as soon as you can, and b) do so without reading anything else about it.
The Discovery, directed by McDowell, is also co-written by him alongside the scribe of The One I Love, Justin Lader. Lader’s script for The One I Love was viciously clever, and there is plenty of reason to expect that the same will be true here. The Discovery’s basic premise is that a scientific proof of the afterlife has been…well, discovered, and swaths of humanity have begun to feel the burning desire to ‘get there’. Jason Segel’s character is the son of the man who made this world-changing discovery; Rooney Mara a woman with a tragic past. There is a romance between the two, one most likely tainted by the legacy of Segel’s father’s work, as well as Mara’s past. All this foregrounded against a world gone somewhat mad in its yearning for a now-proven sublime and better existence. Mara has obviously proven her dramatic chops multiple times, and Segel—previously typecast in comedic roles—has been stealthily building up quite the portfolio of solid dramatic character work, so to see these two in an unsettlingly vibrant world built by the architects of The One I Love is an exciting proposition indeed.
The Discovery also stars Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons, and Riley Keough, and is to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival tomorrow, January 20th. A full release is scheduled for March 31st.