Thursday, 17 March 2011
Starring: Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Frankie & George McLaren, Jay Mohr
By Alan Bacchus
For those who haven’t seen this film, some of you may already know based on the publicity of late that Hereafter begins with a re-creation of the Thailand tsunami disaster a few years ago. This is frightfully timely given the recent events in Japan. Apparently the film has been pulled from theatres in Japan and even some airline flights. This is the right thing to do, but it should be known that Hereafter certainly does not exploit the disaster for the purposes of action or thrills, as in a Roland Emmerich film, but it serves as a dramatic introduction to the notion of near-death experiences.
This is the subject of Clint Eastwood’s latest, a tasteful yet overly delicate film about three people from three different countries dealing with the metaphysics of death. It’s the latest in a remarkable run of films in his senior years, as he has made 10 films in the past decade. Some of them were successful and some weren't, but all special or intriguing in their own creative ways.
In Hereafter, Clint tells the story of three people dealing with death. Marie Lelay (de France) is a French journalist who miraculously survives the Southeast Asian tsunami, but not before she comes so close to death that she ‘sees the light’. Marcus (McLaren) is a young child living in London trying to deal with the death of his twin brother. With that unique bond broken, he searches for a way to connect with him in the afterlife. George Lonegan (Damon) has the psychic ability to communicate with the dead. However, it’s more of a curse than a gift, as his relationships always fail after his secret is revealed.
In terms of cinematic authorship, after his first 30 years as a director it seems that Clint has finally found his voice. A Clint Eastwood film is now instantly recognizable. This is due in part to his superlative collaboration with Tom Stern as Director of Photography. Stern’s distinct high contrast lighting and remarkably crushed blacks look fabulous both on the big screen and on Blu-ray. Clint’s music, which he now almost exclusively composes himself or with his son, also helps define the consistent tone of his films.
Hereafter is no exception, as it employs an especially staid tone, the same kind of delicacy Eastwood displayed in the final act of Million Dollar Baby. Unfortunately, he’s so careful not to sensationalize his subject matter that it comes across as overly precious. For most of the film, Lonegan, for example, is characterized as a lonely and tortured soul burdened by his gift. Damon’s unemotional performance is sympathetic enough, but Eastwood overkills this sympathy with one too many shots of Lonegan pathetically eating dinner by himself in his apartment or watching TV with the lights off in his hotel room.
There are no surprises in this picture either, the trajectory of which is telegraphed from the first act. The mere fact that the characters’ scenes are completely separate from each other tells us that they will have to come together somehow in the end. We realize that it’s just a matter of watching nature take its course as we fill the gaps of the rather obvious theme of spiritual and divine connection from the living to the dead, and even from the living to the living.
I admire Eastwood and company for wearing their hearts on their sleeves and telling what is essentially a religious story without overt proselytization, but it’s too weary and dull to achieve its goals.
Hereafter is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Entertainment.