‘New Life’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: Did Molly Capture Jessica?

A good thriller works best when it keeps its proverbial cards hidden, which is to say, by keeping viewers in the dark about vital information to toy with their expectations involving the narrative—only to drop it in the most pivotal moment, which makes the experience feel worthwhile. The deliberate delay heightens the tension and pokes at the audience’s curiosity for just long enough to be complemented by a satisfying twist or cathartic moment. Unfortunately, John Rosman’s thriller New Life takes the majority of the movie to hold on to the surprise, which turns out to be more bewildering and nonsensical than surprising. Additionally, not giving enough space to flesh out the characters makes the connection with the audience nonexistent as well, resulting in a rancid thriller that neither thrills nor shocks. 


The creative drawbacks feel even more disappointing after realizing that the plot of New Life could have gelled with the audience due to its topical nature had it been treated with a proper narrative structure. For what it’s worth, Sonya Walger steals the show as one of the leads, the weary manhunter, and turns out to be the only silver lining amidst a sea of mediocrity.

Spoilers Ahead


Where was Jessica heading?

As New Life begins, Jessica, a girl in her mid-twenties, is seen to be cautiously trying to avoid detection and making her way towards her home. With a bloodied mark on her face, it seems that she was involved in some terse situation, and from visual cues, it is revealed that she is married. Seeing the authorities approach their home, Jessica decides to flee and reaches a rural area by hiding in a wagon. As she nears a ranch and tries to steal some food, Jessica is confronted by the elderly ranch owner, Frank Lerner. However, considering Jessica to be in a troubled state, Frank takes pity on her, as does his wife, Jeanie, and the elderly couple treat Jessica to a warm breakfast. Jessica, who remains apprehensive anyway, hides her identity, and insists on continuing her journey towards the north, and Jeanie requests that Frank let her drive her to her destination. From her conversation with Frank, we learn something about Jessica’s past—the fact that she was brought up in a farmhouse very much like Frank’s own—before moving on in life and settling in a small town.

After an entire day of driving, the road ends at a certain point, and Jessica decides to walk onwards towards the Canadian border. Frank provides her with some food and clothes and asks whether he can change her mind about leaving alone. The elderly couple seem to be genuinely good humans who could use a bit of company. Jessica politely refuses, and after thanking Frank for the kindness he and Jeanie have shown her, she hits the road. Eventually, Jessica reaches a quaint border town, and approaching a local bar, she asks the temporary owner of the bar, Molly Presser, about work availability. Molly provides her with a cleaning job at the bar. Later, as they get more acquainted, Molly misinterprets Jessica’s wish to start a new life as an effort to move away from her husband, as she herself has been a victim of an abusive relationship in the past. Taking pity on Jessica, Molly insists she stay at her place. 


Who is Elsa Gray, and why is she on the hunt for Jessica?

Alongside Jessica’s journey, in a parallel sequence, we get a look at the life of Elsa Gray, an ace fixer and tracker who is assigned by her company chief, Raymond Reed, to locate and capture Jessica. Elsa has been a manhunter for a long time, to the point that the purpose and fulfillment of her life have become synonymous with her work. Elsa doesn’t seem to have family or acquaintances outside her work, as even if she’d had, in this line of work she couldn’t afford the time or space to maintain a relationship. She doesn’t take vacations either, being way too absorbed in her work to have a life of her own. 

Elsa has been diagnosed with ALS, and despite her best efforts to hide the deteriorating effects of the ailment from her colleagues or superiors, the telltale signs are unmissable. She is trying to handle the situation as best as she can, but at the same time, she is well aware of the inevitability of the situation. It is hinted that, in the past, she had considered taking her own life in a depressed state but refrained from doing anything rash at the end. Elsa has decided to seek counsel from online help groups and from patients who are living with the ailment, but a sense of hollowness has started plaguing her mind already. For an active on-the-field fixer like her, the gradual decay of physical and mental faculties is a fate worse than death. 


Elsa and her colleagues are told by Reed that Jessica is carrying a strain of Ebola, which is why she should be apprehended as soon as possible before inadvertently triggering an outbreak. However, the truth, which Elsa learns later, is much more sinister than that. Through several flashback sequences, it is revealed that Jessica and her husband, Ian, had come across a dog in the wilderness while camping, and despite Ian asking her not to come close to it, Jessica was affectionate towards it. In reality, the dog was an escaped test subject in the lab of a tech conglomerate known as AdienGen, which was experimenting on a particular virus in collaboration with the US government. The dog was a carrier of the virus, and as it came into contact with Ian and Jessica, the virus mutated in an inexplicable way—as in the flashback, it is shown that Ian became pretty sick within a day of coming into contact with it—and gnarly, bloody patches started appearing across his body. As Jessica decided to take Ian to the hospital, their ambulance was hijacked by a couple of hazmat suit-wearing armed security personnel, who kept the duo in two secret, isolated chambers.

Jessica, an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, had managed to escape the facility after unwittingly killing one of the security agents, leaving Ian in the facility, who later transformed into a feral, near-zombified being. AdienGen brought the contract for capturing Jessica to Reed, and with the conglomerate’s reputation at stake, the tracking operation needed to be as secretive as possible, which is why Reed shares the details about the case only with Elsa. However, Elsa is appalled after knowing that Reed knew about her ALS diagnosis and precisely chose her for a mission like this because of it. He considered that someone with a terminal disease has nothing to lose anyway, making Elsa the best candidate to bring in Jessica. To make matters worse, Jessica doesn’t know anything about the situation and thinks the authorities suspect her of murder, which is why she was heading towards the border township to escape the jurisdiction of the States and move to Canada. The problem is that everyone who came into close contact with her will share the fate of Ian sooner or later. Reed states Elsa needs to capture Jessica, alive or dead, to destroy any link existing among the escaped dog, Jessica, and AdienGen, and she needs to do so soon enough to prevent an outbreak situation. 


Did Molly capture Jessica at the end?

Through surveillance footage, Elsa tracks Jessica’s possible waypoint and reaches the farm of Jeanie and Frank, wearing a hazmat suit, and is horrified to see the couple have turned into gruesome, mutated corpse-like beings who attack her at a moment’s notice. Elsa shoots the duo to death and proceeds with her investigation. On the other hand, unbeknownst to Jessica, Molly has gradually turned into a similar feral, hideous being. 

As Jessica takes a stroll across the border township, Elsa, who had successfully tracked her current location, spots her and tries to apprehend her. Elsa’s ailment causes a bit of hindrance, and Jessica escapes. As she packs her belongings from Molly’s place, the mutated version of Molly attacks her. A horrified Jessica manages to survive by beating Molly to death, and at the moment, she realizes that something might be wrong with her after all, as she loses her hair rapidly. Eventually, Elsa catches up to her and, holding her at gunpoint, reveals the entire situation to her. Jessica is showing signs of viral infection, but unlike other victims, she has retained her mental faculties, which Elsa interprets as a hopeful sign. But as she tries to convince Jessica to return with her, Jessica desperately tries to escape by running away. Despite repeated warnings from Elsa, Jessica pleads for her life and continues to flee, leaving Elsa with no other choice except to shoot her down. In her last moment, Jessica shares that she wanted to see the world and didn’t want things to end the way they did, and in that moment, Elsa empathizes with her deeply. With the manipulative authorities and an ALS diagnosis, Elsa, too, is a victim of circumstances beyond her control who could have shaped her life differently if given a chance. Elsa shows kindness to a dying Jessica by holding her hands but makes the mistake of opening the face cover of her hazmat suit. 


After Jessica’s death, all pertaining information, surveillance footage, connections, and evidence were wiped off like they had never existed. It seems that Reed and his company have managed to put an end to a disastrous viral outbreak, despite there being a solid chance of the situation going awry.

In New Life‘s ending, Elsa meets with an ALS care group member at her home, who starts detailing to her all the ways she can keep a positive outlook despite her present condition—information that Elsa seems too distracted to care about. However, as the person suddenly starts coughing uncontrollably, Elsa is shaken out of her distracted mind, and with a concerned, anxious look on her face in the final moments of the movie, it becomes apparent that the worst situation has come to pass. Elsa herself has become an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, much like Jessica, and possibly has infected a whole lot of people unknowingly, becoming patient zero of an impending viral outbreak. As a patient of a terminal disease already, Elsa’s days are numbered, and being a carrier of the deadly virus, she has unwittingly made sure that a part of the world shares a fate similar to hers. But even if Elsa hadn’t become a carrier, Jessica has the chance of becoming a super spreader while working at Molly’s crowded bar—something the movie doesn’t address. Anyway, the ending was a bit of poetic justice for AdienGen, who can no longer hide in the shadows while escaping accountability. The only downside is that a lot of people have to pay the ultimate price for their callousness in the end. 


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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