The Movie Waffler New Release Review - NEW LIFE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - NEW LIFE

New Release Review - NEW LIFE
A sinister agency tracks a young woman who escaped a secret facility.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: John Rosman

Starring: Hayley Erin, Sonya Walger, Tony Amendola, Ayanna Berkshire, Nick George, Blaine Palmer

New Life poster

Of all the genre movies that have directly or indirectly addressed COVID, John Rosman's New Life might be the most interesting. Through a chase narrative it reminds us of how willing many institutions were to sacrifice the weakest to save the herd in the early, uncertain stages of the pandemic.

New Life review

The "weakest" is represented here by Elsa (Sonya Walger), an agent for a shadowy group who finds herself tasked with tracking down a young woman, Jessica (Hayley Erin), who has escaped from a secret facility. Fearing it would end her career, Elsa has been hiding a secret from her employers: she's in the early stages of ALS, and is struggling to keep her hands steady. What Elsa doesn't realise is that her boss, Raymond (Tony Amendola, an actor I will forever confuse with F. Murray Abraham), is all too aware of her condition. In fact, it's the specific reason why he picked her for this assignment.

Unbeknownst to both herself and Elsa, Jessica has contracted a deadly virus. She appears to be immune from its effects, but anyone she comes into contact with initially starts coughing and breaking out into hives, only to ultimately regress to something akin to a mouth-foaming rage zombie. Elsa's illness has made her essentially a kamikaze in Raymond's eyes. Better she contact Jessica and risk contracting the virus than someone fit and healthy, right?

New Life review

New Life has a deeply cynical view of the institutions that run our world and in so doing, decide which lives hold most value. But it offers a starkly contrasting opinion of the goodness of ordinary people. When Jessica is caught stealing canned food from a remote shed, we fear the worst when she's rumbled by a shotgun toting farmer, Frank (Blaine Palmer). Rather than calling the cops, or worse, Frank invites Jessica to have breakfast with his wife (Betty Moyer). She's offered the chance to take a shower and is given a ride north by Frank, who gifts her a bag filled with clothes and food. When Jessica asks Frank why he's being so good to her, he replies "Freedom of reinvention built this country." The line is spoken like a cutting jibe at America's current reductive "You're either with us or against us" mentality. Later, Jessica is befriended by Molly (Ayanna Berkshire), a small town bar owner who has reinvented herself after fleeing domestic abuse.

What makes New Life so tragic is that all of these kind strangers are punching their own tickets by helping Jessica, whose mere presence condemns them to a death sentence, or something worse. Far from faceless victims, Rosman makes sure to humanise these people so that we're genuinely affected by their fates, and later the toll the realisation of her condition takes on Jessica.

New Life review

Elsa is similarly well sketched. She's essentially the voiceless agent that lives in a hotel room until they're activated in the likes of the Bourne movies, but Rosman and Walger make her a living, breathing, struggling human. Watching her attempt to chase Jessica while struggling to stay upright with the aid of a crutch, horror fans may be reminded of Donald Pleasence's Dr. Loomis in the later Halloween sequels. Just as Loomis was willing to do to end Michael Myers' reign of terror, Elsa is prepared to sacrifice herself, having earlier admitted to contemplating suicide rather than enduring with her new way of life. But it's the very act of chasing someone who is so motivated by the will to survive that causes Elsa to question if maybe it's worth persevering after all. If nothing else, it would be a middle finger to those who wrote her off.

New Life is on UK/ROI VOD from June 3rd.

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