“Hereafter,” directed by Clint Eastwood, is a romantic movie in the deepest way possible. It tells the story of people who are fated to connect with each other, whose lives intersect in a mysterious—and healing manner.
Marie (Cecile de France) is a French broadcast journalist who, while on vacation in Thailand, appears to drown in a devastating tsunami. While in the “death” state she sees a vision, a panorama of an afterlife that stays with her even after she’s resuscitated from her drowning experience.
George (Matt Damon) is a former psychic now working in a factory in San Francisco who signs up for a cooking class in order to start a new life. He’s assigned an attractive partner, Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), and when the two head back to George’s apartment to make dinner together it appears George’s “new life” is about to take off. But a phone message from George’s brother Billy (Jay Mohr) prompts Melanie to ask George for a reading. Reluctantly he agrees, knowing that after the reading he’ll never see Melanie again. He’s right.
In London two twin boys, Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), try to cover for their drug-addicted mother (Lyndsay Marshal), who is in danger of intervention by social services. On the way to the chemist’s to pick up his mother’s prescription, Jason is harassed by some young hoodlums and runs in front of a van. He’s hit, and dies instantly. Marcus is devastated, even more so when he is taken from his mother and placed in a foster home. He spends his time researching psychics on the Internet, in the hopes of contacting his brother.
Is it inevitable that these three people should meet? It’s a tribute to the cinematic skills of Clint Eastwood that their meeting seems natural, yet spun out of an intricate fatalism that is as lyrical as it is soothing. Marie leaves her broadcasting job and writes a book on her experiences with the afterlife. She finds a publisher who asks her to go to a book fair in London to promote the book.
George is fired from his factory job and, rather than return to his former career as a psychic, he takes a vacation in London where he ends up at the book fair where Marie is reading her work. Marcus is brought to the book fair by his new foster parents—when he spots George, whom he immediately recognizes from his Internet research on psychics, Marcus begs him for a reading. George, who has just connected psychically with Marie, refuses.
But Marcus is a determined little kid and hangs around outside George’s hotel until George takes pity on him. The reading he gives Marcus is insightful, telling the boy how his twin saved his life during a recent subway explosion, and that it is now time for Marcus to stand on his own. Marcus is grateful—so grateful that he later calls George with the name of Marie’s hotel (youthful Internet savvy, no doubt). George is surprised but realizes he does want to see Marie again. He goes to Marie’s hotel, leaves her a letter—and the rest is other-worldly.
“Hereafter” is a magical mystery tour of the highest order. It’s a movie that left me feeling uplifted and positive, even though it only scratches the surface of the research done on afterlife experiences. But perhaps a fascinating romance is indeed the way to present information on the “5th dimension”. It certainly makes one curious about going there.