Gilbert Speaks on Charlie McDowell’s ‘The Discovery’

We all talk about an afterlife, but is there really a better place that awaits us? What if it was scientifically possible to guarantee that heaven awaits us? A heaven free of pain and woes? What would you do to get there before your scheduled time? We will find out in my review of The Discovery.


People with a strong spiritual and religious background have no problem believing in an afterlife, but unless you are actually able to speak to the dead…your whole belief system in based on the Bible and what your ministers tell you. But…are they correct, or should we lump the afterlife in with Santa, the Easter bunny, and unicorns?

The Discovery, which is a 2017 British/American sci-fi film, was directed by Charlie McDowell and stars Jason Segal, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford and Jesse Plemons. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) is a scientist who has proven the existence of an afterlife, or so he believes. Once the news gets out, there are mass suicides taking place; in fact, before Thomas Harbor is forced to go into hiding, his interview with a reporter (Mary Steenburgen) is cut short by a horrific act.

Why are so many healthy people willing to end their lives? This is the question that Thomas’s son Will (Jason Segel) asks himself as he rides a ferry on his way to his father’s secret lab. On the ferry, Will meets Isla (Rooney Mara). Will feels comfortable speaking to Isla. She seems familiar. Will is attracted to the girl and feels comfortable telling Isla about his near-death experience when he was a child.

Will almost drowned as a child, and while temporarily dead, Will had seen a young boy at a beach. He never understood what this experience meant, but it was the catalyst for his father’s obsessed research for the afterlife. While Will is upset with people killing themselves, Isla seems okay with the mass suicides. What Will doesn’t know is that Isla has come to this island to end her own life. They go their separate ways when the ferry docks.

Will is picked up by his brother, Toby (Jesse Plemons) and taken to a huge estate where not only is Thomas continuing his research, but he has now gathered a cult following with people who have failed in their attempts at suicide.


Rooney Mara plays her Isla as a quiet and determined woman who is on a mission. Her mission is to end her life by drowning. Luckily, depending on who you ask, Will is there on the beach and saves her. We learn the reason for her quest to die: the accidental death of her five-year-old son. Isla blames herself for the boy’s death. She had fallen asleep on the beach. Will then tells Isla about his mother’s suicide. Will blames his father’s preoccupation with his research as the cause for his mother taking her life. There is a lot of bitterness between father and son, but Will talks his father into allowing Isla to stay at the compound. Isla’s arrival causes one of the cult followers to become jealous of the girl.

The Experiment

The latest experiment that Thomas is working on is a machine that he hopes can record what dead people see in the afterlife, but this will require a corpse, which sends Will, Toby and Isla to the morgue to rob a body. The experiment is done, but the results are confusing. Are these just memories of the corpse, or is this a window into the afterlife? Isla and Will decide to track down the family of the dead man and what they learn…shocks everyone.

Conclusion with Spoilers

Is there really an afterlife? According to my grandchildren…NO! And the fact that they don’t believe in an afterlife is kind of funny because they are fully aware that I am a psychic/medium who has been seeing the dead since I was a child. Even though you might not believe in an afterlife, how would you react if there was scientific proof that your soul was able to live on in another reality? Would you commit suicide to reach the promised land before your scheduled time? And when you arrived on the other side, what would you find?

After Thomas performs another experiment on himself, the equipment reveals a life where Will and Toby’s mom does not commit suicide. What Isla and Will realize is that the afterlife is a gateway to other dimensions where your soul experiences an alternate reality. This information can not get out. It would cause even more deaths. Thomas must destroy the equipment, but before he does, tragedy happens.

The Discovery had many weak spots in its plot, but it does get you asking questions. It might even change your mind about the possibilities of reincarnation. I do believe in reincarnation, but have always felt that our souls came back to continue its mission on this world. The Discovery succeeds is getting us to think in a much larger scale. What if our souls can start over in a new dimension…a dimension where our souls can right the wrongs of a previous life? This is what Will succeeds in doing in the final moments of the film, but you will have to watch The Discovery on Netflix to see what happens to Will and Isla.

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