Hereafter Directed by: Clint Eastwood Cast: Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Frankie McLaren, Bryce Dallas Howard Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: October 22, 2010
PLOT: A man who claims to talk with the dead (Damon), a recent survivor of a tsunami tragedy (de France) and a young boy (McLaren) are connected by a unique chain of events involving fleeting interactions with the paranormal.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who are familiar with Eastwood's directorial work might be more prepared than others for his particular pacing. Everyone should know, however, that the trailers are misleading in presenting this film as a sort of "disaster movie."
EXPECTATIONS: Eastwood has explored mortality many times before, but hasn’t ventured into afterlife contemplation much. At times he has dropped the ball when it comes to poignant sentimentality (Invictus), so I was especially curious to see with how much emotion Eastwood would present the concept of the paranormal.
Matt Damon as George: Eastwood finds another tragic figure of the middle class in George, a hard-hat worker laborer to escape a previous life of psychic readings that only made his interactions with the living move difficult. A grayed Matt Damon plays this quiet character with proper reserve, which makes his journey towards his own inner peace all the more sweet. Score: 7
Cecile de France as Marie LeLay: Her contribution to the story of Hereafter is more mental than emotional, which makes her comparatively less effective as a whole. Her confusion about believing still intrigues her audience, as she shares the outsider’s perspective. It would have been nice to know more about what she learned from all of those documents obtained in the second act, however. Score: 6
Frankie McLaren as Marcus/Jason: The story of these twins makes for a heart-breaking tale about trying to find answers about the afterlife, and trying to stay in touch with those who have left us. Throughout this course of events, Marcus maintains a stoic nature unique to young boys of his age, but not to those working as main characters in an Eastwood film. The story of Marcus/Jason takes the beauty of love and reminds us that such devotion is not just for significant others, etc. Score: 8
Bryce Dallas Howard as Melanie: Though she only has a few scenes, Howard’s performance is essential to completing the background of Damon's character. Her presence used sparingly, she becomes a different kind of loss in the film, and stands as an example for how "regular" people deal with George. She also represents the safety we should embrace in not having all of the answers. Score: 7
TALKING: Some of the dialogue that is meant to go straight to the heart loses its way in shreds of cheesiness. Take for instance when George says, “It's not a gift - it's a curse.” As a slight warning to those who will already be jarred by the “European” pacing of Hereafter, a quarter of the film is indeed in French. Score: 6
SIGHTS: Hereafter’s one and only action sequence does have bits of false, Roland Emmerich-like (2012) special effects. Eastwood succeeds at selling his disaster by having the moment rush by so quickly. His usage of point of view perspectives put us right in the middle of the tsunami, as opposed to reveling in the destruction like many disaster moments of movie past. The visualizations of the actual “hereafter” are not without a tad touch of almost sci-fi corniness, but Eastwood uses the same tactic, and reduces the appearance of such segments throughout the movie. Whether the whooshing gray look works aesthetically or not, the film hardly relies on those moments to provide any strong emotional significance. Instead, we get that powerful nature from Tom Stern's shadow-heavy cinematography. Marvelous. Score: 7
SOUNDS: Eastwood compliments this story with another self-written gorgeous score driven by a descending jazz melody, which can only be described as contemplative. At times, its jazz guitar line strangely echoes motifs from the Gran Torino title song. This is actually quite fitting, as that concluding tune and the entire score of Hereafter provide a similar purpose, to remind the audience intimately that Eastwood is very much with us, even without any direct physical presence. Score: 9
BEST SCENE: Leading into the second act of the film, there is a shot involving Marcus, a hat, and a bed. It is a moment that definitely touched the twin parts of my heart, and brought about a strong emotional reaction.
ENDING: It is Eastwood’s score that provides the movie with its real coda, as the final piece carries the credits until it’s just a simple lone jazz guitar fiddling around during the final studio logos.
REWATCHABILITY: Hereafter does not have an immediate replay value on a strictly entertainment level, but a second viewing made for an even more emotional experience.
Death is just another mysterious part of life in Peter Morgan’s (Frost/Nixon) script for Hereafter, a striking poem about mortality that becomes a spectacular emotional experience when put into the hands of Clint Eastwood. With three equally important stories to tell, Eastwood lets these stories breathe, and ties them together at a speed that is altogether true to the curious ways that real life works. Added on top of Morgan’s contemplations about the title subject is Eastwood’s sentimentality, which still even after so many films strikes deep into the impassioned nerves of his audience. Never manipulating its events with any Invictus-level corniness, the beauty of Hereafter speaks for itself, and also for the universal crowd that can relate directly to it.
This incredibly moving film does not pretend to have any answers about the afterlife, but it has plenty of warming ideas about the present. I felt this especially during a resplendent quiet walk I had with my girlfriend after leaving a showing of this film. Hereafter beautifully uses its exploration of mortality to promote full appreciation of the special connection we have with those living with us in the here and now.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10