Death is one of the most fascinating and querulous subjects that mankind has to wrestle with and, while we don’t expect films to rewrite the mandate of heaven to give us answers, we do expect insights and fresh food for thought but, disappointingly, Hereafter supplies neither. The writing remains uninspired throughout with events presented in such a matter of fact way that the ethereal world it tries so hard to be a part of is diminished and the tone never moves beyond prosaic. It’s most definitely a deadly experience, but not, methinks, in the way the filmmakers intended.
Marcus and Jason are English twins. Their mother is a drug addict and when Jason is killed in a car accident Marcus is put into foster care (this storyline is watchable). Marie Lelay, a French holidaymaker, is swept away by a tsunami. She has a near death experience but is revived and returns to her job as a TV Anchorwoman in Paris (this storyline drags). George Lonegan, an American, used to be a medium but felt his gift was a curse and opted out of the psychic world (this storyline makes time stand still).
Ensemble pieces must be inextricably bound or they fail, and the only link that these three stories have is a connection to death, which is far too general and makes each tale seem like a stand-alone, so much so that when we first cut from the young boy’s story to the French woman, it feels like a flashback. There is, of course, an attempt to connect the three but it’s painfully contrived and not the road to Damascus experience we expect from a spiritual encounter.
Most of the actions of the characters seem unlikely and one particularly incongruous story thread is George’s relationship with a very irritating young lady he meets at a cookery class (why cookery, I have no idea). There is a food tasting scene that plays out more like a bad reality show than anything else but, with Bobby ‘˜Bacala’ from the Sopranos as the Chef, there is a touch of gangster chic when he picks up his carving knife to slice up the filet mignon and it’s the most entertaining moment in the entire film.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and we meet Marie Lelay when she is in bed with her lover. She gets up, pulls on a pair of jeans over what she slept in and goes shopping. We all know why the French make all that strong perfume but don’t they clean their teeth either? It’s a worrying thought and when we get a close up of George taking Marie’s hand, I couldn’t help but wonder if she’d given it a rinse after her last visit to the restroom.
Starring Matt Damon
Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood
Canada ‘” 12 September 2010 (Toronto Film Festival)
USA ‘” 10 October 2010 (New York Film Festival)
USA ‘” 14 October 2010 (Chicago International Film Festival)
USA ‘” 15 October 2010 (limited)
USA ‘” 22 October 2010
Italy ‘” 5 January 2011
Spain ‘” 21 January 2011
Germany ‘” 27 January 2011
UK ‘” 28 January 2011