WE GO ON (2016)

#52 and #53 are kinda interrelated so they get a combined review.  2017’s The Discovery, a Netflix original (this time it is!) features Robert Redford as scientist Dr. Thomas Harbor, who believes that he has confirmed definite proof of an afterlife via his experiments.  This discovery has caused an astronomical rise in the suicide rate among those who are ill or just want to get to the next level of existence.  In this world, a diagnosis of cancer is greeted as good news because they will get to the afterlife soon.  Society is pretty much going to hell.  There’s a scene that opens the film featuring Harbor being interviewed for the first (and, as it will turn out, the only time) time after his discovery (Mary Steenburgen plays the TV interviewer) that is shocking.  The film jumps ahead ten years after the interview, when Redford’s son Will (Jason Segel) travels to the remote island that Redford lives to try to convince him to give it all up, to tell the world he was wrong.  Instead, Redford is pressing further to try to find more out.  His home is a complex where he has taken in many lost souls, almost as if he is running a cult. Rooney Mara is Isla, another wayward soul who’s allowed to stay at the complex – Will falls in love with Isla and instead of stopping his father, he starts to do some experimenting of his own – and makes some drastic discoveries!  The Discovery takes an intriguing idea and makes it dreary and gloomy.   Save for the ending (which is a little mind-blowing and I wish more time had been taken with it), there is a lot of talk about life and what it means and we get away from the fascinating premise.  The middle of the movie just sits there, which is frustrating considering the promise The Discovery held.  Redford is really good as Harbor – you forget how good an actor he is, as he makes it look so effortless – and Segel is muted but effective as his son.  Jesse Plemons adds a tad of comic relief as his other son Toby (in a part that would have been perfect for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman). 
Speaking of the afterlife…2016’s We Go On is also concerned with it but in a very different way.  Miles (Clark Freeman) is very much afraid of dying so he doesn’t drive, he only takes the bus.  He is paralyzed by this fear, so he decided to make a bold move – he spends $30,000 to take out a quarter-page ad in a Los Angeles newspaper offering to give $30,000 to anyone who can prove beyond the shadow of a  doubt that there is an afterlife (that’s it for his 60 grand in savings).  His mother (a feisty and fun Annette O’Toole) sees the ad and comes to see him, knowing he’s the one who must have bought it.  They go through over a thousand responses and narrow them down to three.  This is played a bit tongue in cheek and John Glover is delicious as Dr. Ellison, who is very sure he can prove the existence of ghosts in Miles’ old grade school, where a classmate was once found dead, stuffed in a locker.  Anyway, We Go On takes an unexpected and gratifying turn when Miles investigates a mysterious cell phone message without his mom tagging along.  He goes to meet Nelson (Jay Dunn), an airport runway worker who is eager to show Miles something that will put him in the “inner circle” of knowledge.  This twist changes everything – this is not a humorous shyster parade any longer.  I applaud the creepy direction and the gutsy decision of filmmakers Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton to take the road less travelled by.  And yep, it has made all the difference for We Go On.  Worth a look.
TLA one word review (The Discovery) – ponderous   (We Go On) - unexpected