PLOT: A mysterious woman on the run, and the resourceful fixer assigned to bring her in. Their two unique stories inextricably link, as the stakes of the pursuit rise to apocalyptic proportions.
REVIEW: After 2020, it’s hard not to watch a movie about a deadly virus and be thrust back to that time. An indirect result of that year is a certain reality to any film involving a pandemic. Before, when things would ramp up in a movie like Outbreak, I’d often roll my eyes at how quickly things get out of control. But 2020 proved that we as a society care more about our comforts than keeping the world alive. With this in mind, New Life had me intrigued from the beginning, as there are few things that are scarier than an apocalyptic virus.
New Life puts the viewer in a state of confusion at first. We’re following Jessica Murdock (Hayley Erin) on the lam and know that there is a group of people after her. We don’t know why but the pieces slowly start to come into place. I always love when a film puts you right in the middle of the story and treats you with enough respect to put the pieces together on your own. There’s not a lot of hand-holding here, which makes the whole experience very rewarding. I feel that movies often spoon-feed the narrative out of fear of the audience not understanding. This can lead to a frustrating experience for the more observant viewer.
I found myself very conflicted with Jessica as she seems to be unable to comprehend the situation at any point. Even after seeing body after body, she doesn’t seem to understand that she’s the one causing it all. At one point, she’s just ignoring her problems and essentially just trying to set up a new life. While this makes sense at first, once we get to see where she came from, she should be able to comprehend the gravity of her situation. Because of this, I found myself increasingly annoyed with Jessica. If anything, I would have appreciated her going on a march to death in order to save the world. But that scenario is never even broached and instead Jessica just appears very selfish.
One of my favorite elements is the degree of importance that we place on human life. I always find it interesting how people can judge the quality of someone’s life in regard to their right to life. Elsa (Sonya Walger) has recently been diagnosed with ALS, and so she’s specifically chosen to go after this deadly virus. The reasoning being that: she’s going to die anyway. I think it’s the kind of message that really hits close to home. Then add in Walger’s incredible performance and Elsa’s one of the more intriguing characters. If anything, I’m so curious as to what the rest of her journey would be.
I may have wanted a little more from the narrative but there’s no denying there’s a lot of talented people involved. From the performances to the cinematography, there’s plenty to latch onto with New Life. Writer/Director John Rosman has me interested in whatever he does next as he proves here that he can do massive ideas, in a rather grounded way. While I could have done for a little bit more development with Jessica, the end result is very satisfying. There are plenty of messages to be gleamed from this. But I think the most important one is the value of life not being so black and white.
NEW LIFE premiered at FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2023.