Fantasia Film Festival 2023 Review: ‘New Life’

John Rosman's debut patiently and excitingly doles out narrative threads to unfurl into a gripping thriller.

by Nick Kush
New Life

If there’s one thing to take away from New Life, it’s that John Rosman knows how to structure a screenplay. Rosman’s debut is the special kind of film that withholds just the right amount of information to keep you in the dark, but gives you enough to make its several genre-changing reveals feel like they aren’t coming out of left field. The result is a sneakily exciting film that constantly has you on your toes. The kind where each revelation feels earned and natural.

New Life begins in the thick of it as Jess (Hayley Erin) is sneaking through a neighborhood with blood streaming down her face along with a prominent black eye. She’s running from something, but we don’t know what yet. She slips into a house, grabs a ring, and escapes out a window before a group of armed henchmen in ski masks notices she’s there.

Meanwhile, Elsa (Sonya Walger) is an agent contracted out to find Jess. She’s struggling with a recent ALS diagnosis and the emerging symptoms. In the film’s early moments, we see her incredibly sparse, cold apartment. (I couldn’t help but think New Life was tipping its cap to Neil McCauley’s empty concrete house in Heat.) Her work is all she has, so while she’s resided to using a cane to get around and often fights shakes, she still takes up the job.

With the two sides of the cat-and-mouse caper setup, Jess begins to make her way to the Canadian border, running into some benevolent citizens along the way who aid her however they can. Periodically, New Life provides seemingly unrelated flashbacks of Jess with her partner Ian (Nick George). Naturally, these flashes begin to provide more information as the film progresses, and they crest at the same time New Life commits to a fairly drastic shift — approximately halfway through the film’s wonderful 80-minute runtime — that changes the tone, the genre, and the character dynamics. Luckily, the teaser trailer attached below conceals the film’s surprises well. I certainly won’t divulge them either.

New Life is a wonderful discovery. One that points to an exciting career for John Rosman if things fall in order. Not only does the film provide fun, surprising twists without calling too much attention to them, but it slowly morphs into an unpretentious, grounded character study between the two leading women. There are certainly thrilling moments to please horror enthusiasts sprinkled throughout, but in its conclusion, New Life shifts again to something a little more contemplative, drawing on the two-sides-of-the-same-coin nature of Jess and Elsa’s connection. It may not elicit the intended amount of emotion, but it’s yet another example of the movie being far more interested in subverting genre expectations rather than playing into them.

Follow MovieBabble on Twitter @MovieBabble_ and follow Nick @nkush42.

Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on New Life? Comment down below!

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to MovieBabble via email to stay up to date on our latest work.

Join MovieBabble on Patreon so that new content will always be possible.

Related Articles

1 comment

Nick Kush September 8, 2023 - 10:25 am

Join the MovieBabble staff:

Like MovieBabble on Facebook:

Follow MovieBabble on Instagram:

Follow MovieBabble on Twitter:


Leave a Comment Below!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: