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New Life Film Review: Bold and Creative Thriller

The face of a brown haired woman with blue eyes is seen on the right of the frame, looking ahead, with the mountains behind her, in the 2024 film New Life

John Rosman’s New Life is an exceptional directorial debut with terrific performances and an utterly gripping narrative.

Director: John Rosman
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Run Time: 85′
US Release: May 3, 2024
UK Release: June 3, 2024
Where to watch: in theaters & VOD

A harsh truth we slowly learn about ourselves is that we’re all ultimately on a timer we can never fully understand. For some, life can be a lengthy endeavour with an end not likely to come for an incredibly long time, whether by genetic history or just pure luck. For others, however, the timer runs out quicker, and no matter what we do to lessen the pain of the process, life still ultimately reaches an unfortunate end.

We can run for as long as we feel able, but we ultimately can’t hide. John Rosman’s New Life is a thriller that follows two women ultimately chasing each other’s shadows as death and the rush of escape collide with one another.

New Life follows Elsa Gray (Sonya Walger, of For All Mankind), a fixer given the task of bringing in Jessica Murdock (Hayley Erin, of The Young And The Restless), a woman who’s mysteriously gone on the run for reasons unknown. As Jessica travels across the United States and meets various people along the way, Elsa tracks her movements while struggling with ALS, a motor neuron disease that is slowly ripping away at her ability to work and function in her day-to-day activities. The two chase each other across the country and, in doing so, find themselves uncovering dark truths that make their small confrontation grow more significant in scale.

The key to understanding New Life is in the character of Elsa Gray. As a rule, it’s not often we see older women taking the lead within contained thrillers like this one. However, having an older character offers an edge to the film that allows it to feel far more lived in than expected for a story that seems so small in scope. In one of the first scenes where we are introduced to Elsa, we see her fall and hit her head, a harsh example of her ALS beginning to slowly put her body in distress. It’s an interesting contrast compared to one of her earlier scenes that shows her calculated preparation in her role. She’s a cold character, unafraid to do what is necessary to complete her mission. However, with her body slowly shutting down, there’s an urgency to this seemingly ordinary task that speaks to the film’s broader ambitions as a narrative.

At 80 minutes, New Life sees director John Rosman navigate this narrative with a highly economical mindset. Offering more character-focused direction instead of letting bombastic action or visual effects tell the story. Despite this, what’s especially masterful here is just how grand everything feels. Hayley Erin and Sonya Walger offer phenomenal performances where their character urgency feels important and almost apocalyptic in nature as the truth of their stories becomes known. For a film that mostly takes place within mundane environments, John Rosman, alongside his phenomenal cast, brings the story of New Life to its absolute limit—allowing it to grow larger in size while still placing itself within a tightly secured box. The ambition never exceeds its grasp, but instead, it lets itself grow larger. Allowing the story to remain almost as a precursor to something bigger. Your imagination guides the film almost as much as its performances and screenplay.

A young woman wears a brown jacket in the mountains, looking in front of her, in the 2024 film New Life
New Life (Brainstorm Media)

There’s a lot to gain in watching New Life by heading in blind and allowing the narrative to enter unexpected territory. However, even if one were to watch the film fully knowing where it goes in its final moments, it still stands as a wonderfully raw depiction of emotional stubbornness viewed on an epic scale. It’s a rare twist-filled thriller where knowledge of the spoiler-filled moments could even enhance a first-time watch simply because of what else it has to offer with its performances, themes, and controlled filmmaking. As a debut, it’s incredibly confident and bold in bringing fresh air to a premise that, at first glance, seems like any other. It may not have the big budget of a blockbuster, but frankly, the scale at play here ensures it doesn’t need one. Instead, all it needs is a confident hand to guide itself through the road it takes, and it does so perfectly.

New Life is a terrific directorial debut from John Rosman with outstanding performances and a narrative that grips you from the start and never lets go. It’s hard enough to make an original feature film, but to make one that tells a multilayered story in a short amount of time with this amount of heart and complicated soul placed within it is even trickier. However, John Rosman makes it look easy thanks to his complete control of the script and the screen. We only have so much time on this planet, and the closer we get to the end, the more terrifying life and the things we could miss might be. However, with bright, creative visions like this always on the horizon, there’s a comfort in knowing that artistic minds will always exist within the medium of film to tell new stories in fascinating ways.

Get it on Apple TV

New Life will be available to watch in US theaters and on demand on May 3, 2024. The film will be released in UK & Irish cinemas on June 3.

New Life: Trailer (Brainstorm Media)

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