New Life movie poster

New Life

In theaters June 3, 2024



83 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , ,

In director John Rosman’s thriller, New Life (2023), the existences of two women are intertwined as one races towards the Canadian border towards freedom, while the other sees the last of her independence circling the drain.

Elsa (Sonya Walger) is a trained fixer, hired by important people when bad things go sideways and then catch fire. She’s tasked with bringing in Jess Murdock (Hayley Murdock) who may be on the verge of inadvertently starting an outbreak of what could be Ebola in the Pacific Northwest. Using nothing but desperation, Jess escaped a black ops medical facility and is leaving a trail of bodies in her mad dash to Canada. Elsa is the best at what she does, level-headed, intuitive, and able to make connections, but a recent diagnosis of ALS and the rapid progression of the disease means she’s running out of time to both catch her quarry and plan for her future. Elsa knows very little about Jess at first, only that every person she comes into contact with is found half-mad and covered in pustules, or dead. Whatever she’s spreading, it can’t reach the border.

New Life is about as bare-bones a thriller as one can get. There are no flashy computer programs with movie dots, no teams of specialists with sniper rifles on rooftops. These are two women faced with surviving terrible situations, while given only partial information and expected to make rational choices, while their well-patterned lives disintegrate around them. When we meet Jess, she’s covered in blood and ducking CCTVs and phones to get to safety. Her story is primarily told in staccato flashbacks from back to front and then forward again, before evening out into a solid narrative of fear and desperation as she takes a leisurely trip with her boyfriend. They make solid plans, first with each other, then with a dog they meet at camp. We learn that Elsa’s life is sparse, if well appointed. She has put a lot on the back burner to get to where she is. Elsa fights against a lack of information and her own body refusing to provide her with the quick responses she needs to be safe. She’s ambivalent about what is most definitely her final job, she’s just not sure if she’d rather die in the field than face what lies ahead.

New Life has a decidedly indie feel, but where it hasn’t skimped is on acting or sets, or even the sporadic scenes of leaking bodies and gore. It’s not quite body horror, though whatever Jess is passing around isn’t anything anyone wants. Rosman gives each woman a solid sense of their autonomy and their purpose, and neither is willing to give them away. There are no stupid decisions furthering this plot, only slowly unfolding dread. Jess relies on the kindness of strangers and the sense of tempered excitement of being someone else. Elsa imagines how she’d make a break for freedom and what it would be like to put feet on the blacktop and walk away from all of her worries. Neither converging story is heavy-handed or too precious. While the first 15 minutes seem a little too deliberate, once the ball gets rolling and the facts literally spill, Rosman promises a finish you won’t forget any time soon.

New Life (2023) is unrated, but it is definitely an R for swears, people getting shot, people spontaneously bleeding, bursting pustules, off-screen animal death, and a frank discussion of chronic illness.

New Life is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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