dir. Mali Elfman
In 2022 the ‘right to die’ remains a hot-button issue. Critics of assisted suicide purport that such programs may prey on vulnerable people rather than addressing systemic issues like access to mental health and medical care, homelessness and financial instability. In this climate then Next Exit – the directorial debut of Mali Elfman, daughter of Danny – takes these themes and turns them into a haunting portrait of life, death and hope.
A twist of fate finds strangers Teddy (Rahul Kohli, Midnight Mass) and Rose (Katie Parker, Doctor Sleep) carpooling to San Francisco to die, volunteering to become part of a controversial doctor’s ongoing research into life after death. Their relationship is fraught with hostility as their personalities clash, but over the course of their roadtrip they learn about each other’s reasons for choosing death — and together begin finding reasons to live again.
Stories about suicide are often grisly and graphic, relying more on shock at the act itself rather than the deeply human motivations behind it. This is not – thankfully – that kind of film.
The memorable score by Ariel Marx and Danny Elfman sets the tone: with the camera lingering on vast, barren fields under grey skies the economic pressures and bleakness of the main characters’ lives are implied without being explicitly stated. There’s an understanding that this is the world at breaking point, because this is also the world we live in. The two leads are utterly captivating too, with Kohli in particular proving he has what it takes to be a leading man.
Rich and humane, Next Exit is a film for anyone who has felt isolated, abandoned, the crushing guilt of a past mistake, or who has simply wanted to have a meaningful life. Which, in 2022, is all of us.
© Mae Murray
Next Exit receives its UK Premiere at FrightFest on 26 August