Next Exit (2022) Ending Explained: “Next Exit,” director Mali Elfman’s debut feature, successfully evokes searing emotion on the foundation of an exciting premise in the science-fiction territory. The ever-so-enticing theme of “afterlife” has been explored to an extent in various art forms; Charlie McDowell’s 2017 film “The Discovery” and the legendary Satyajit Ray’s short story “Kompu” are the examples that instantly come to my mind as I’m talking about this. What sets “Next Exit” slightly apart from these is, at the core, it is the story of two troubled individuals.
This makes the movie a rather personal one and a very engaging experience, mostly because of the performances of the two leads, Katie Parker and Rahul Kohli, both of whom are known for their frequent collaboration with master horror filmmaker Mike Flannagan, as a matter of coincidence. Parker is particularly brilliant in it, and I was really happy to see her in a substantial role more than a decade after the brilliant Absentia (2011), which was Flannagan’s debut.
Next Exit (2022) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:
Thanks to a groundbreaking scientific study pioneered by a certain Dr. Robinson (played by Karen Gillan, who only appears on TV screens), the afterlife is now accessible. Certain people can see ghosts and even communicate with them to an extent. Death is not the end. The rate of suicide has gradually increased. At the Life and Beyond research center in San Francisco, California, Dr. Robinson keeps researching the post-death life where she needs willing volunteers who would give their lives for the purpose.
Enter Rose and Teddy, two volunteers who take a road trip from New York City to San Francisco to do the novel deed. The two meet rather unexpectedly, thanks to a car rental fiasco. The result of it is the two taking the trip together in the same car. While American Rose comes off as pretty much stand-offish, British Teddy appears to be warm enough to befriend him. This is established even before the fateful meeting of the two, with Rose smashing her Television instead of selling it to a random guy because he made an obnoxious pass at her and Teddy leaving his dog with his employer cum friend Milton. Another major difference between the two; Rose can see ghosts, but Teddy can’t.
The journey begins. Rose is driving because Teddy doesn’t have a license, and Rose doesn’t want any trouble. She also doesn’t want to do anything with Teddy either. In fact, she wants Teddy to put on his headphones and keep them to himself. Teddy does try to initiate a friendship between the two, and despite Rose constantly rebuffering it, he does not give up. Just when Rose and Teddy are on the path of a somewhat meaningful conversation regarding their reasons for doing “what they are doing,”; a random guy comes in front of their speeding car out of nowhere and meets his maker in no time.
Rose is shocked and freaking out, quite naturally. Teddy tries to assess the situation, and soon the duo realizes that the stranger (named Joe by Rose for the moment) did that thing on purpose. But the other big problem is the lack of a jack in the car, so they are unable to change the damaged tire and be on the course.
Rescue does come their way pretty soon, in the form of father Jack. He is a catholic priest who walks on the road twice daily to care for strangers like Joe. Not to mention, he also has the means to fix the car problem for our traveling duo.
Father Jack also stands very much against what Dr. Robinson is doing, and he finds it extremely cruel, which is quite obvious given his Catholic roots. But despite all that, he is a genuinely helpful and understanding man who is ready to hear other perspectives, even though he knows that nothing is ever going to change his stance. Before leaving, Father Jack helps Rose with a confession, which also reveals Rose’s catholic roots.
Where do they go next?
Rose and Teddy end up in a not-so-seedy motel and eventually in different adjacent rooms. Rose still hasn’t warmed up to Teddy, and all she has to say to him is, “be ready by 6 am”.
But the night does not go well for either of them. Alone inside his room, Teddy gets bored to death. Time becomes infinite for him. But it’s worse for his co-passenger in the next room. Haunted by the ghost she keeps seeing, Rose runs into the bathroom with a bottle of whiskey and spends the night inside the tub. When Teddy knocks at six sharp, she is far from ready. In fact, she is still far from awake, which Teddy finds out, but he doesn’t wake her up. An embarrassed, hung-over Rose finds Teddy eating pancakes at a nearby diner. If anything the night has done, it must close the enormous gap between them a little bit.
Rose and Teddy drink at a bar and play “never have I ever” that night. A fellow customer named John joined in, and the three of them pretty much hit it off together. The game goes on, and they keep drinking and confessing wild sins. It is a great night until John confesses about accidentally killing five people, including three children, and getting constantly haunted by him. For the duo, the tryst with John ends there only.
At the motel, Rose tucks in a really drunk Teddy, who finally reveals his real reason for volunteering to Rose. An absentee father who has made his life directionless. He never recovered from it, and nothing ever really worked out for him. This is the only way his life will mean something.
The next morning, Teddy proposes that they should have a day of fun, which involves juvenile things like shoplifting, etcetera. After a little bit of hesitation, true to her character, Rose gives in to the demand. And, of course, Teddy’s plan includes picking up a hitchhiker, which they do soon.
That is what the hitchhiker, a young woman of the same age as Rose and Teddy, calls herself. She is going to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to experience and celebrate a meteor shower with her family. Karma doesn’t endorse Dr. Robinson’s work as well and eventually gives Teddy an update regarding the passing of a bill putting curtains to it. Teddy asks her not to disclose the news to Rose.
While Teddy and Karma watch the meteor shower from a potential vantage point, Rose gives it a pass because she has something to do with her. Well, she eventually reveals what that “something” is to Teddy. Rose has found Teddy’s father.
Next Exit (2022) Ending, Explained:
In “Next Exit,” the two characters are battling their own demons, and while the journey is taken by them together, their personal endings are based on their different context. That’s why I am going to write about it separately. First, let us focus on Theodore, aka Teddy.
Does Teddy confront his father?
Teddy, perplexed, reacts exactly as you’d expect Rose to when she drops the bomb. This is why he came to America. To find that one man who has ruined his life and tell him how much hatred Teddy harbors for him in person. The moment has finally arrived, all thanks to Rose.
Teddy eventually composes himself and goes to the bar where his father, Joe, can be found. Rose lets him be and remains close by, like a true friend. Teddy eventually finds the man. The person who is responsible for every terrible thing in his life. But it is an old, weary man who is nothing but nice to Teddy and orders him a drink while calling Teddy his young friend. Teddy leaves with a random bar fight; to be more clear, Rose takes him away.
Outside, Teddy breaks down and then takes it out on Rose. But she encourages it, lets him pour his heart out. All his anger, all the failure life has ever handed him over, is out there now. Somehow, Teddy is saved and safe, with one person who truly cares about him, despite knowing him for only some days. The two make out passionately, which eventually leads to more things.
What did Rose do?
It is Rose’s turn now to reveal things finally. And it could not be more heartbreaking. She could not be there when her mother died. And she kept ignoring her sister’s phone calls and messages. Then one day, she ended up at her sister’s home. Her loving sister Heather took her in with open arms. Her niece adored her. All was well until, in a moment of vulnerability, Rose ended up sleeping with Nick, the sister’s husband. That was it for her. Rose’s self-sabotaging nature ruined everything for her. And she can’t take it anymore. The ghost that haunts her is no one but her own mother.
Upon knowing all that, Teddy comforts her to the best of his ability. Things take a pretty interesting turn the next day. After dozing off for a while, Terry is surprised to find themselves outside a house in the desert of Arizona. Where has Rose driven him after all?
Yes, after all, it is her sister’s house, who is delighted to see Rose again. Nick is squeamish and awkward compared to Heather, as you would expect. Teddy realizes that Rose is here to tell him what she will do and apologizes to her closest blood relative. Without saying much, he just goes along. But Rose doesn’t go through with it. Instead, she comes up with this story of her and Teddy meeting a month ago, him being from Oxford, their plan of a Vegas wedding, then moving to Europe and living the good life. While she weaves this fantasy into Heather and Nick, Teddy looks at her, and all we see is love and hope in his eyes. But unfortunately, they have an appointment with life beyond.
Before leaving, Rose makes one last attempt to tell Heather about what she did with Nick. But to her surprise, Heather already knows, which I didn’t find surprising at all.
Does Rose die in the end?
Before reaching Life Beyond, Teddy makes one unsuccessful attempt at convincing Rose not to do it. Their journey ends exactly where it was supposed to. With his heart in his hand, Teddy walks inside with Rose. Dr. Robinson is not there, but Rose doesn’t want to wait. So one of the nurses takes her to the room. Upon Rose’s insistence, she lets Teddy tag along with them. Just when the process is about to start, Teddy makes one last attempt. He just can’t let her go. In fact, he was the only person who ever made his living worth it. He asks for a day, an hour, and then just one minute. Rose asks the nurse to stop. Right at this moment, things suddenly go completely dark, and Rose finds herself in a sort of black astral plane.
Like her, we are all confused here. But it gets clear with each passing minute as her entire life starts to flash by in front of her eyes. All the mistakes that have always haunted her, all the people that have ever mattered to her, all the people who ever loved her. Rose is free now, like a firefly, while she gazes at her own lifeless body and an anxious, crying Teddy inside the room she is in from a circular window.
And then she wakes up. When Teddy asks how it felt, her very much to-the-point answer is “like dying.” The two end up at a beach and look at the crashing waves. There is life up ahead. The life beyond can wait for them. For their sake, I really hope it works out.
P.S.: I know some of you might think Rose died and the beach, in the end, was a dream or something. But I absolutely do not endorse the theory, just to be clear. Because the whole point of this movie was their survival, and I am glad that happened.