“Hereafter” a film directed by Clint Eastwood is a sweet, meditative study on not so much the afterlife, but how people view it. Considering that its subject is one of the prime considerations of organized religion, it remains relentlessly secular.
Spoilers may follow.
‘Hereafter” is actually three stories in one, which eventually converge into one at a London book fair.
The first story is about a French journalist named Marie who is caught in the great tsunami of 2004 and actually drowns for a time. She has a near death experience in which she catches a glimpse of the afterlife, before coming back to life and spitting up water. The experience haunts her, causing her to be distracted from her regular job as a hard hitting television reporter back in Paris. On the advice of her lover, she takes a leave of absence to write a book. The book starts as a biography of the late French President Francois Mitterrand, but eventually turns instead into an account of her experience and on current science and thinking on what the nature of the afterlife is. Her effort meets with some hostility, at first, but eventually it leads her to a reading at the London book fair.
The second story is about two British twins living in London, Jason and Marcus, whose mother is a heroin addict. Jason is killed in an automobile accident, leaving his brother obsessed with the idea that he still exists somewhere in another existence. Marcus’s quest, at first, proves very unsatisfactory. Religious explanations leave him cold. The various charlatans that he encounters leave his frustrated. But his learning that Marie will be reading from her book leads Marcus to the London book fair.
The third story is about George, played by Matt Damon, a medium living in San Francisco. Unlike a lot of people who call themselves mediums, George is the real deal. He can talk to the dead and tell things about people that no one else could ascertain. On occasion he can see the future. George finds this ability a torment and has vowed not to use it any more. He has taken a job as a factory worker and is trying to find something resembling a normal life by taking cooking classes. An attempt to have a normal relationship with a woman he meets at the class, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, ends in disaster when a reading he gives her reveals a dark secret,
George’s brother, played by Jay Mohr, wants him to become a professional medium again. Not only can George help people find closure by contacting their dead loved ones, but he can become a money machine for the both of them. Ultimately George recoils from this idea and flees to London. A fan of Charles Dickens, George learns of a reading that Derek Jacobi is giving of the works of Dickens at the London book fair. So his story too winds up meeting the other two.
Clint Eastwood’s study of the afterlife and how people view it is slow, steady, and ultimately reassuring without being too cloying. The characters are well formed and the journeys they go through are interesting and enlightening. Well recommended.
Source Hereafter, IMDB