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Hereafter (Review)

Hereafter (Review)

Neither here nor there.
Jan 30, 2011
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Genre: Drama, Fantasy Release Date: 10/02/2011 Runtime: 129 minutes Country: USA


Director:  Clint Eastwood Writer(s): 
Peter Morgan

Cast: Cécile De France, Cyndi Mayo Davis, Ferguson Reid, Jessica Griffiths, Lisa Griffiths, Thierry Neuvic
Hereafter (Review), reviewed by Anders Wotzke on 2011-01-30T09:00:24+00:00 rating 2.0 out of5

At the ripe old age of 80, it’s completely understandable why seminal American director Clint Eastwood (Changeling, Invictus) is pondering about the afterlife. I just hope, for his and our sake, that it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than what he’s depicted Hereafter, a sluggish and surprisingly shallow drama about three melancholic souls and their supernatural brushes with the dead.

The first is Marie LeLay (Cecile de France; High Tension), a French reporter vacationing in sunny Thailand when a tsunami – yes, that tsunami – suddenly hits, sweeping her away in one tremendously gripping sequence. After her near death experience, Marie returns home to write a book about the vision she saw whilst on the verge of death. Unfortunately, this isn’t nearly as gripping.

The second is George Lonegan (Matt Damon; Green Zone), a glum San Francisco construction worker who possesses the power to communicate with the dead. He’s for real, too; upon making contact with someone, he experiences visions of their dearly departed. While his brother (Jay Mohr; Gary Unmarried) considers it a lucrative gift, George’s time as a professional psychic left him lonely and miserable, so he gave up the gig to become a day labourer.  Unfortunately, he’s still lonely and miserable.

The third is Marcus (Frankie McLaren), a 12-year-old London lad who lives with his twin brother Jason (George McLaren) and his drug-addicted single mother Jackie (Lyndsey Marshal). When social services drop by, it’s Marcus and Jason who tidy up the house, not to mention their mother, in order to avoid being put under foster care. Unfortunately, a tragic accident breaks their family apart anyway.

So there you have it; three depressing stories for the price of one. This mightn’t have been an issue had the story by veteran screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) spent less time in narrative purgatory, in which these despairing characters do nothing but spend their days despairingly.  By the halfway mark, it becomes clear just how little Hereafter is interested in answering the questions it sets out to, lazily depicting the afterlife with the same defining qualities  – white lights, ghostly figures and wispy voices – we’ve seen countless times before. While I’m not looking for any definitive answers on what happens next, I’m not looking for any hooey half-measures either. Eastwood and Morgan are dealing with the unknown; it can be anything they want it to be. Yet out of indolence, or perhaps out of fear of alienating religious moviegoers, they play it safe and remain as frustratingly indistinct as possible.

hereafter211 e1295844521393 600x268 Hereafter (Review)

Of all the competing storylines, Matt Damon’s is easily the most intriguing. This owes to the actor’s beautifully understated performance, a sign that Eastwood, having worked with Damon on his previous film Invictus, knows how to get the most out of the star performer. Damon clearly has a handle on his character more than the likes of Cécile De France or Frankie McLaren, who each seem as disinterested in their roles as the rest of us.

If you’re still in the land of the living by the time the three storylines converge, you’ll be met with one terribly unsatisfying conclusion that reiterates just how little Hereafter is about the hereafter. And perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps the afterlife isn’t meant to be understood; it’s the here and now that’s important.  But when Eastwood’s weepy depiction of the ‘here’ is just as dull and tedious as his superficial exploration of the ‘after’, that’s hardly of any consolation.

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