On most Sunday afternoons you can find me sitting at my computer, working on personal projects, drinking coffee, and watching Netflix. Recently whilst perusing the titles available, I happened upon the recently released Netflix movie (apparently Netflix is making movies now) called The Discovery.
First of all I do not recommend this film; I watched it out of curiosity and at the end it left a bad taste in my mouth. It's chock full of foul language and has some innuendo and violence (rated TV-MA) and frankly it's very, very, depressing. And on top of that, the way it ends isn't very fulfilling (something I will touch on later. *Spoilers ahead.*) However, this not-so-great film brought to mind several questions about regret that are worth pondering.
The premise of the film is that a brilliant scientist (played by Robert Redford) has proved to the world beyond a shadow of a doubt that an afterlife exists. While you would think this would bring the world hope, the opposite happens. In the year since he made this discovery, the suicide rate has skyrocketed as people decide to escape their problems for a life beyond this one. The story centers around Will (played by Jason Segel) who is the son of said scientist. Returning home after several years away, Will finds that his father has created a sort of cult amongst people who are suicidal, promising them hope in this life as they work together to do the unthinkable: actually record, on video, what is on the other side of death.
What is your worst regret in life?
As the film unfolds and Will and his scientist dad do discover what lies beyond this life, the concept is confusing. It is revealed that the afterlife is merely a chance to fix something you regret. You enter another plane of existence, another reality, where you can make a wrong decision right. Prevent that loved one from committing suicide or save your child from that terrible accident or stop that person you fell in love with from walking into the ocean and drowning.
But this begs the question: Which regret do you choose? What if you have a lot of regrets? Do the others just have to stay the same? Which is the worst one? And what if you mess up again? At the end of the film we find out that Will has actually been dead this whole time. The movie is essentially his "afterlife" where he gets to go back and save Isla, a girl he met one time in the past who later killed herself by walking into the sea. At the end of the film, Isla is shot by a rejected cult member and dies, which leads Will to take his own life out of grief and start the cycle all over again. It is revealed that Will has actually been repeating the same sequence of events countless times and every time Isla has walked into the sea and he has failed. But this time, the time we witness in the film, he saves her and he gets to move on to…Isla's version of an afterlife where she gets to fix her regret. As I said…it's super confusing.
Does your regret rule your life?
The main motivation of Robert Redford's character for doing all this research into the afterlife is guilt over the suicide of his wife. One evening she asked him to come to dinner, but he was too busy with his work, so she went up stairs and took her own life. His regret and grief drives him to pursue an answer to where she went, almost as if learning that she is in a better place will alleviate his guilt.
It's a common trope in stories for the main villain to be consumed by one thing in their past that has haunted them to the point of obsession. As a fan of time travel stories, I've lost count of how many times I’ve heard of the concept of going back and changing things for the better. First of all, time travel isn't all it's cracked up to be and secondly, the repercussions of such an action would affect everyone and not just you; frankly it's extremely selfish. Robert Redford's character caused humanity tremendous pain because of his obsession. His regret led him to meddle in things that mankind wasn't ready for, resulting in the deaths of thousands.
Similarly, our personal regret can make us do things we may regret to make up for our regret. Alone, man cannot save himself. We cannot cleanse ourselves of sin. To attempt to do so makes us fixate on our regrets until they drive us mad. Such a life isn't free, but rather a life of slavery to our pasts.
Is your regret so great that Christ cannot cover it?
I'll be honest with you all: I have regrets. If you are human then you have more than likely royally messed up once or twice in your life. That comes with having a sin nature and living in a fallen world. However, when Satan tries to remind me of my regrets and they become so heavy that I think I cannot bear them, the Holy Spirit reminds me of the promises of God. That He delivers us from our fears (Psalm 34:4), that we can press on and we don’t have to look back (Philippians 3:13), and that we can finish this life strong (2 Timothy 4:7).
I don't know what you, dear reader, would say is your greatest regret. But I can tell you that the answer to the third question above is an unequivocal no. No regret is so great that Christ cannot cover it. Ephesians 1:17 says, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace;" and 2 Corinthians 12:9a says," My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Regardless of your past, there is hope in Jesus Christ.
Again, let me reiterate, The Discovery is not a film I would recommend. Even the secular movie reviewers have called it dreary, weak, and dismissive of both religion and science (perhaps Netflix should stick to TV shows). The bad press isn’t that surprising. The idea of having to repeat things over and over again until you get it right sounds a lot like a hellish afterlife rather than a heavenly one. Yet as I've mentioned in previous articles, the darkness of this film helps to highlight the contrasting hope of Jesus Christ. A world where man has to save himself and is doomed to fix his own mistakes, a world without Christ, is not a place anyone, religious or not, wants to live. No one would wish for a dreary world like the one in The Discovery. Praise God we do not have to fix our regrets in order to find ultimate peace! And praise God that any regrets we may have are covered by the blood of Christ and ultimately used for His glory! There is nothing that God cannot redeem. 2 Corinthians says "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
A new life…for those in Christ, that is indeed what we will find on the other side.