Mali Elfman’s Next Exit is a dark comedy that is deeply concerned with investigating life, death, and the veil in between—all things io9 discussed, along with the possibilities of ghosts, in a video interview with the writer-director.
Ultimately, Elfman says that she wanted to make sure that this film was funny because talking about death is hard. It’s one of the most absurd things to be a part of, whether as a mourner or a witness. Humor, love, comedy, all of it is part of the ways that people cope with the inevitability of everything ending.
This film is also about making the decision to end your life, which is obviously an incredibly fraught subject. Next Exit is, essentially, what happens when you are allowed to medically pass on without judgment or shame. What could be an incredibly triggering and hard-to-watch film becomes a nuanced exploration of vulnerability and acceptance. In an earlier interview with io9, Katie Parker, who plays Rose, thinks that being vulnerable is eventually what allows her character to change.
“I think sometimes we can be in a narcissistic place in our pain that we think our pain is the worst pain ever and no one’s going to understand how that feels,” Parker explained. “And when someone holds space for that, it it kind of dissolves… Teddy and Rose do a lot of healing together on their journey where they are able to be unabashedly who they are, scream at each other, cry, laugh.”
Rahul Kohli, who plays Teddy, said that the big conflict of his character is that he’s too afraid to be honest, and uses humor to deflect from the real hurt he’s experiencing. He’s more afraid of living, Kohli told io9. “You believe Rose [wants to die], but with Teddy, it doesn’t really feel like he’s made this decision, that this is something he wants. It’s not fully thought-out. For Teddy, it’s more about the fear of not living right.”
Elfman said that at the end of the day, this is a film about characters who “are human beings who are unable to deal with themselves. And that gets in the way of them being able to live their actual lives. That’s what creates ghosts, is the idea that these people are haunted by something that they can’t let go of.”
The characters were always the focus for Elfman, rather than the latent supernatural premise. The film is about “how we deal with other human beings in this world,” Elfman said. “It’s humanity and the people that exist that I’m interested in writing about.”
Next Exit is in theaters and on demand now.
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