There’s no scarcity of movies that talk about anxiety, depression, and suicide, just like there is no scarcity of movies about the end of the world. Discontinued, directed by Trevor Peckham, comes from the long line of movies that marry the two. It’s a very straightforward coming-of-age tale about a high-functioning young woman who is hopeless about the world she lives in before the end of the world puts her idea of the sorry world at a standstill.
Sarah is a suicidal millennial with high anxiety and a very poor opinion of her world. Basically, everything from her now dormant job to what society is slowly becoming frustrates her. She is both angry at the dude-bros she has to hang out with in the lure of a connection and sad at herself for having set such high expectations from everyone around her.
The self-canceling thought process often leads her to listen to self-help jargon while waiting to do her next home visits or sit in front of her therapist Theodore (Robert Picardo), who is almost always done with sessions when she questions his authenticity. Her only solace is hanging out with her friend Kayla (Michelle Yazvac), who she never truly vibes with, or talking to her extremely affectionate and supportive mother, Sharon (Risa Benson), who is less of a help than her own fragile ego.
But Sarah tries. She tries her best to put herself out there. So, when Kayla sets her up on a date with Tucker (Michael Bonini), she goes, in spite of knowing too well that it will all end up with more frustration. Anyway, the date goes south ways as Tucker turns out to be a grade-A douche, and when Sarah returns, her fuming anxiety pushes her to chug all of her pills down her system.
It doesn’t go her way, though, as instead of leading her away from the world, intaking the pills takes her to a bizarre TV broadcast where the host (played by Langston Fishburne) announces that the reality that she has been living in has been a simulation and the ones who had created said simulation are discontinuing it because the goal of the reality has been achieved. Residents of this reality, i.e., earth, are told to make two choices – either stay here or choose to live with 5 of their best memories forever.
For a person like Sarah, the idea of this entire thing is freeing. But for how long? Sarah makes a choice that most of us wouldn’t, but will her choice to not have control lead her where she wants to be? Discontinued wishes for Sarah to look within. This science-fiction-augmented-reality-twilight-zone thing is used for a self-actualization narrative for the protagonist to look within and discover who she is and what she really wants.
There are some interesting ideas about individuality, faith, loneliness, identity, and isolation thrown into her that director Trevor Peckham wishes for Sarah to channel head-on. However, once we are past the narrative twist, it does feel like we are not going anywhere, much like Sarah, who is unable to understand what her learning is from all these changes in her life. While that isn’t entirely a bad place to be, it just feels like an exercise in nothing.
Props to Ashley Hutchinson, though. The young actor, who truly understands the black comedic tone of the story, is the soul of this film. She carries it around single-handedly with little to no help from the side characters who, in comparison, feel like stick figures. The other high point is how Trevor shoots the film. For a small-budget movie, the film looks and feels great, with perfectly staged sequences and lighting that compliments the themes that he is going for. So, while the debut isn’t entirely satisfying, I’d expect bigger and better things from Trevor in the future.