New Life is a genre-bending film that defies categorization. At first glance, writer-director John Rosman’s feature debut appears to be an interesting cat-and-mouse game between Sonya Walger and Hayley Erin that doesn’t appear to offer anything new to espionage thriller clichés. But, as it turns out, that’s part of the appeal of New Life, with major second-act discoveries propelling Rosman’s film into a horror zone and raising the stakes.
While discussing the key revelation would utterly ruin the picture, it’s worth noting how the filmmaker addresses one of the most overdone horror clichés from a fresh perspective. That alone would make New Life a memorable film, but it has much more to offer.
The video begins with a shot of a young lady covered in blood, slipping through suburban streets while continuously glancing over her shoulder. Jessica (Erin) is being pursued by men armed with firearms and clothed in suits. Her only way out is to travel north and do anything she can to remain concealed until she reaches the Canadian border and begins a new life for herself.
While Jessica is on the run, Elsa (Walger) is assigned to lead the search for her. Elsa, a former outstanding field agent, has lately been diagnosed with ALS, and her body is gradually refusing to respond to her will. She conceals her illness from her coworkers, hoping that bringing Jessica in will help her prove she can still do her job.
New Life portrays a message of solidarity in Jessica’s portion of the story, as she is fortunate to meet paths with individuals who provide assistance without seeking any answers about her background. After escaping whatever is after her, she is free to start over. Elsa’s narrative is similar to Jessica’s in that the agent is forced to change her life owing to the constraints of ALS.
So, on one level, Rosman’s film is about the chaotic components of life, in which everyone must choose whether to embrace optimism or succumb to despair in the face of hardship. That theme recurs throughout the tales of both main characters, as Jessica and Elsa battle to recapture the lives that have been snatched from them, either by other people or by unjust diseases.
New Life can only succeed as a character-driven drama because Eron and Walger are dedicated to their characters. Even though Jessica and Elsa are on opposing sides, they both suffer from secrets and distrust, which is shown in how they cover their grief and keep everyone at arm’s length. Eron and Walger contribute to the emotional depths of both ladies by utilising body language to depict the complicated sentiments they cannot express openly as we see their reactions to the plot’s curveballs.
Walger, in particular, contributes to the ALS plot by effectively expressing the anger and dread that comes with the diagnosis while keeping the harsh adversary mask that her hunting position requires. This is a compelling drama that improves when New Life toys with genre clichés to defy expectations.
New Life doesn’t explain why Jessica is fleeing, nor does it tell who Elsa’s contractors are at first. All we know is that the chase uproots the lives of two ladies who have never met before. This narrative structure allows listeners to investigate each character’s internal conflict. Furthermore, the film makes a comment on the risks of technology.
Jessica must travel across the country while avoiding technology. Meanwhile, Elsa’s army of specialists searches the internet for information on her prey’s location. New Life mixes pictures of surveillance cameras, official government transcripts, and social media to highlight the terrifying web of cyber monitoring we are all stuck in, with dynamic cutting that lends a refreshing and fast-paced energy to Rosman’s gripping directing.
Jessica may wish to disappear, but there are simply too many digital traces for others to follow in order to learn more about her. There is an ever-increasing flow of information around human lives, making it difficult to think privacy still exists in an age when street cameras can watch people’s every step without warning them.
That terrifying concept enhances the traditional woman-on-the-run thriller, offering a bleak image of the influence wealthy corporations may wield over people’s lives. When New Life discloses why Jessica is on the run, the message is clear: corporate greed frequently gets in the way of individual safety and privacy, regardless of the dangers it poses. Even though these aren’t the film’s major themes, Rosman’s script successfully incorporates modern problems to flesh out New Life’s backstory.
Commenting on the film’s genre-bending twist would be a disservice to it. Still, it’s worth noting how the horror aspects added in the second act contribute to the thriller’s tense atmosphere, bringing Jessica and Elsa’s personal journeys closer than either could have imagined. Rosman’s writing is also deft enough to prevent tonal dissonances by gradually introducing these additional elements without losing sight of the core plot, at least until the finale.
The final act of New Life might have been cleaner since some of the story aspects associated with the scary section of the film interfere with the film’s careful investigation of ALS through Elsa. Nonetheless, while employing genre clichés for both its thriller and mystery horror story layers, New Life seems fresh and unique, providing a blend that works so well that it’s a marvel no one else has attempted something like before.