HEREAFTER

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Matt Damon, Jay Mohr, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren.

Even at the age of 80 Clint Eastwood is certainly one of the most prolific directors still working at the moment, and he continue to defy attempts to pigeonhole him. He tackles a broad range of genres and themes, and is free to pursue films that appeal to him personally. His latest is a metaphysical inquiry into themes of death and the afterlife.

Hereafter is a meditation on mortality and the mysteries surrounding what happens to us after death. Is there an afterlife? Can people really communicate with the dead? The film doesn’t provide any easy answers to these intriguing questions. This is a measured and thoughtful film from a filmmaker who is increasingly aware of his own mortality.

Written by Oscar winning British playwright Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, etc), Hereafter is a multiple layered narrative that follows three different characters trying to come to terms with their own experiences of death.

On holiday in Indonesia, French journalist Marie (Cecile de France) barely survives a tsunami and becomes obsessed with her near death experience. After returning to work in Paris she tries to find answers about her near death experience and what she believes is a government sponsored conspiracy of silence concerning the afterlife. She plans to turn her insights into a book, although her publisher is reluctant to publish it.

In a high rise London project, twins Marcus and Jason (played by real life twin brothers Frankie and George McLaren) are trying to hold their family together. Whenever Social Security pays a visit, the pair cover for their drunken mother. But when one Jason is killed in a traffic accident Marcus desperately tries to find a way to communicate with him and find solace. He contacts a number of psychics, frauds and charlatans.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, gifted psychic George Lonegan (Matt Damon) found his telepathic insights more of a burden than a gift. George only had to touch a person to gain visions of those they have lost and sense their misery. He has quit the business because it was too emotionally draining, much to the chagrin of his brother and manager (Jay Mohr). But George finds he cannot completely escape from these disturbing visions.

The device which brings all three together at a book convention in London is a little contrived and creaky. The narrative strand following the French journalist is somehow the least engaging and involving of the three, and is actually quite sluggish and dull.

Eastwood’s direction is quite restrained and measured here, and he maintains a rather melancholy tone. This is a surprisingly pensive and sensitive film from Eastwood, yet it still is proficiently made and skilfully directed. His usual attention to detail is meticulous, and regular cinematographer Tom Stern captures some wonderful images. The intense opening sequence in which a CGI-created tsunami rips through an Indonesian resort village is quite spectacular, and easily the best thing in the film. Eastwood himself has composed a solid and emotionally resonant score that perfectly complements the drama.

There are solid performances from the cast, especially the very busy Damon, who delivers an understated performance as the psychic who is able to hear dead people. Bryce Dallas Howard makes the most of her role as a potential love interest for George after he meets her at cooking classes. But she disappears midway through the movie. Young Frankie McLaren is particularly appealing and delivers a surprisingly mature performance.

This is one of Eastwood’s weakest efforts in several years. Hereafter was originally intended for Steven Spielberg, but he remains on board as one of the producers. Given his love of spectacle, one wonders what Spielberg would have made of this material.

★★☆

 

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