Billed as a science-fiction, Next Exit uses sci-fi elements and ideas as a catalyst, before venturing into more traditional territory. Opening with some spooky footage of a young boy playing cards with his deceased father, Next Exit certainly knows how to capture attention. The father and son have been able to spend time together thanks to a breakthrough by Dr. Stevenson (Karen Gillan), the head of Life Beyond. In need of further exploration, Dr. Stevenson picks out a willing crop of volunteers for and it is within this pool that Next Exit finds its protagonists.
Strangers Teddy (Rahul Kohli) and Rose (Katie Parker) are forced together on their way to their appointments at Life Beyond. It’s a classic odd couple thrown together. Rose is laser-focused on making her appointment on time; she’s desperate to get there, though her reliance on alcohol makes that difficult. In contrast, Teddy is keen to make the most out of the journey, seeing it as one big adventure. The differing stances cause plenty of friction between the two, and opens up plenty of potential for drama.
Much of Next Exit is spent with Teddy and Rose as they converse. They talk about their lives, hopes, dreams, and aspirations amongst other things. Their discussions dissect plenty of philosophical musings about what it means to be alive. The chatter is honest with its conversations about mental health, grief, and thoughts of suicide. The frankness of the dialogue really impacts due to the stellar work of Kohli and Parker. Both are frequent collaborators with Mike Flannignan, and so they are used to emotional and weighty monologues. The pair work effortlessly together on screen; their bond sucks the viewer in, drawing them into the emotional journey the two are undertaking.
Despite its overtly science-fiction scenario gleaned during the opening, Next Exit is much more easily compared to films within the road movie, drama, and even romance category. The sci-fi elements provide a springboard for an interesting idea whilst providing the perfect environment to tackle some of mankind’s biggest existential issues. Though tragically haunting and steeped in pathos, Next Exit does also have moments of lightness. As the atmosphere between Rose and Teddy begins to thaw, there are some cute interactions between the pair. Thanks to the sterling work that Kohil and Parker have put into their characters, Teddy and Rose feel one hundred percent real and elicit maximum empathy.
Science-fiction light, but drama heavy, Next Exit is a simple idea presented wonderfully. Aided by two strong central performances, Next Exit offers a soothing balm to the overbearing world around us. A must-see for those that enjoy listening to characters discuss lofty topics whilst forming connections. Think Linklater’s Before Sunrise viewed through a Black Mirror lens.
Next Exit is a film about lonely people coming together to form connections, one which in turn fully draws the viewer into the character’s emotional turmoil.
Next Exit was reviewed at Fantasia International Film Festival. Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Next Exit on digital platforms 20th February 2023.