“Next Exit” deals with the question of what would happen if life after death were scientifically proven. Mali Elfman’s directorial debut is a road movie that follows the journey of two individuals who are convinced that their life on earth is not worth living. The chance encounter between Rose and Teddy leads to a journey of self-acceptance, friendship, and love. “Next Exit” is pretty much what you would expect it to be; the characters are predictable, and the ending is mediocre. The film had scope to explore unfamiliar ideas, but it chose to be a safe, feel-good film in the end.
‘Next Exit’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
It has been scientifically proven that there is life after death. A video of a boy playing cards with his dead father went viral. People started to consider ending their lives, knowing that it was just the beginning of the afterlife. Suicide rates increased, and crime rates decreased. People were no longer scared of losing their lives, making it difficult for criminals to thrive. Theodor/Teddy decided he wanted to be a part of the scientific experiment conducted by Dr. Stevenson. The Life Beyond Project took in volunteers and euthanized them to study the afterlife journey. Dr. Stevenson was all over the news discussing how her study was opening new doors for science. Teddy wanted to be a part of the movement; he wanted to do something meaningful in life, and he believed this experiment was it. Meanwhile, Rose always felt a black shadow lingering around and wanted to get away from the mistakes she had made in the past. The two arrived at a rental car store, but they both were missing one item from the list of things they needed to have. Teddy did not have a valid driver’s license (it was expiring in a week), whereas Rose did not have a credit card. Since their destination was the same, they decided to rent the car together. They started their journey from New York and headed to San Francisco, California, to arrive at the headquarters of the Life Beyond project.
Teddy and Rose were unlike each other. He preferred expressing all his thoughts, while she liked it quiet. Rose established from the very beginning that she was not looking for a friend. But as expected, the two strangers turned into friends and shared their deepest, darkest secrets. Before dying, they tried to face the people who drove them to the position they were in. During their journey, they met strangers from different backgrounds who discussed with them their take on the experiment. They first met a priest who believed that the experimentation was a mockery of the will of God. He tried offering help to individuals who were ready to commit suicide. The experimentation had put religion in danger since it took away the fear of death from people, making it a tough time for believers. Rose and Teddy later met a border police officer who could see the spirits of the immigrants he shot dead coming after him to seek revenge. And finally, they met a mystical woman, Karma, who was a hitchhiker looking for a ride. She believed that there was not enough scientific evidence to support the experiment. She later discussed with Teddy how she believed that no matter the science, what one did in life mattered.
Teddy and Rose’s journey together helped them accept their past and forgive themselves for what had gone wrong in their lives. Now that ending life is an option, what would make people want to live?
Why Did Teddy And Rose Decide To Join The Life Beyond Program?
Teddy tried to work on multiple business ideas, but none of them were successful. He struggled to find the purpose of his life, and that was when he decided to join the program. As a volunteer, he would be a pioneer in an important scientific discovery. By giving up his life, he would impact the lives of thousands. But later on, we discover that there was another reason that pushed Teddy over the edge. Both Teddy and Rose were suicidal from an early age; they attempted suicide multiple times but were never successful. Rose swallowed pills but ended up staying alive, and the program was her way of knowing that this time her death was going to be certain.
Teddy was abandoned by his father at a young age. He grew up all alone, always hating himself for who he was. He found that the letters, drawings, and pictures he had sent to his father were always returned unopened. His father chose to forget about Teddy and his mother as if they had never happened in his life. He left London and returned to the States. This explains why Teddy came to the States to start his career. Teddy wanted to make it big in life to prove to his father that he was worth love and attention. When Rose asked what he would do if he ever met his father, he stated that he would break his jaw and then say that he would prefer to die than live the life his father gave him. Through their conversation, Rose knew Teddy’s father’s name and that he lived in New Mexico. She managed to find his number in a phone book and called him to confirm his location. Rose asked Teddy to confront his father and say all that he had wanted to say all his life. Teddy was fuming with rage when he entered the pub his father, Joe, frequented. But he noticed that his father was now an old man who was overjoyed upon winning a round of a video game. Teddy was emotional, and he could not find the courage to say what he had thought he would. Later, Rose pretended to be his father and helped him get over his hateful feelings. The conversation turned Teddy emotional, and the two shared a moment of intimacy.
That day, Rose finally shared the reason why she was ready to die. Her father died when she was young; she grew up with her mother and sister. Her sister was almost perfect; she was academically brilliant and brought home awards, while Rose was expelled from school for violence. She was in debt when she could not get her college scholarship. She was absent when her mother died because she believed that her family would judge her for being a failure. After losing her mother, her job, and her apartment, her sister, Heather, helped her. She started staying in her luxurious house, but even that got messed up. One night, when Heather was away on business, she made love with her husband, Nick. She was envious of Heather’s perfect life, so she decided to live it for a night. The next morning, Rose woke up feeling a void inside her, but Nick was unaffected by their affair. That was the day Rose started to see a black shadow following her. It was a constant reminder of the shame she carried within herself. The worst part was her sister never called her out of anger; she was mostly worried about her, making Rose terrible. She realized that no matter how good her life became, she would always destroy it. She had the instinct to always self-sabotage. So, she decided to die, knowing that she would ruin her life anyway.
‘Next Exit’ Ending Explained: Did Teddy And Rose Commit To The Life Beyond Program? What Did Rose Learn About Life?
During the course of their journey, Teddy learned that the trials would be shut down in a few days. After opening up to Rose about his father and learning about her troubling past, Teddy fell in love with her. He wanted to live his life with her, but he knew that she did not wish the same, so he accompanied her even after knowing that he might not go through the process. Rose drove to Heather’s house. Heather was overjoyed upon seeing her; she was worried after Rose left all of a sudden. Rose thought of disclosing the real reason why she wanted to meet her sister one last time, but she chose to lie to her. She wanted her sister to believe that she would be marrying Teddy and moving to London and making a life there. She perhaps wanted Heather to not worry about her anymore, which is why she lied about her life going in the right direction. Before leaving, Rose could not help but mention Nick, but Heather stopped her. She knew what had happened or what her husband was capable of, but she believed that was her problem to solve and not something that must bother Rose. She only cared about Rose’s well-being and wanted her to take responsibility for her own actions.
Teddy tried to make Rose realize that maybe she drove to Heather’s house to confess her past mistake and that it was her way of finding a reason to live. But Rose could still see the darkness following, and she knew that whatever the reason, it was not strong enough for her to live. The next morning, they reached the Life Beyond headquarters and checked in. Teddy stated that he would not go through the process. After resolving this issue regarding his father, Teddy found a zeal for life. He accompanied Rose through the process; he wanted to stop her but did not know how. When the IV treatment started, he stopped the process, begging her to give him another minute to make her realize that she deserves another chance, that the step she took yesterday to mend a broken relationship was courageous, and that she must not punish herself for the past but live for the present. But by then, it was too late; Rose had entered a state of coma. She realized that the dark shadow that always followed her was her own reflection. In the afterlife dimension, she saw all of herself, all the mistakes she made, and the regrets she lived with. It was quite like living in a past bubble, but soon her spirit followed a spark of light and traveled back to her body, and she woke up. After waking up, she hugged Teddy and realized that by ending her life, she would have to live with her past mistake. By living, she could start anew, give herself another chance, and try to right the wrongs. At the end, when Teddy asks her how it feels to almost die, Rose states that she realizes that even after all the mistakes she made in the past, she wants to keep on trying.
Teddy and Rose needed each other to realize that they were more than their past mistakes. Teddy did not have to live to prove his worth to his father but instead lived to enjoy the little happiness that life provides, and Rose had control over her actions and could work on the mistakes she made in life. “Next Exit” does not delve into the science fiction angle of it. It could have been quite an interesting film if it had taken that route. Knowing that one’s life does not end with the death of the mortal body could lead to endless possibilities and contradictions, but instead, we are served with a predictable romantic drama.
“Next Exit” is a 2022 Drama Romance film directed by Mali Elfman.