A drama centered on three people – a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy – who are touched by death in different ways.
Year 1, Day 329: Movie #326
BEFORE: Supernatural and science fiction cary over into today’s films, yes another double-feature is in store. Starting things off is another Clint Eastwood-directed film Hereafter. This marathon has seen great success with Eastwood’s other directing ventures (with films like Blood Work, Mystic River, and Gran Torino) so hopefully that can carry over.
AFTER: That’s two films about the afterlife in a row now and Hereafter brings a lot to the table. Taking a multi-pronged approach, the film tells three separate stories of people who are affected by death which all tie together in the end (à la Crash). While I wasn’t fully accepting of how Eastwood executed these narratives, I do think he did a great and enlightening job overall.
Death seems to be a popular theme recently in the marathon, not just yesterday’s The Lovely Bones but About Schmidt and Solitary Man are also amongst the most recent. It’s a heavy-duty topic that’s hard to cover because we don’t know what happens after one Hereafter is interesting because it examines this from multiple angles and shows how different experiences lead to different reactions. Instead of taking a single stance about death and what it means, this film tries to see many perspectives. The first is of George Lonegan (Matt Damon) who is a psychic that can speak to the dead but chooses not to. The second is of Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) who dies briefly during a tsunami before being brought back to life. And the third is that of twin brothers Jason and Marcus (George and Frankie McLaren): Jason dies after being hit by a car and Marcus must live without him. All three stories independently are well-told and provide a lot of insight into how one must feel when place in a similar situation. Likewise, it was incredible to see all three of these stories told together and also combining at the end in a predictable, yet still enjoyable, way.
But at the same time, this fragmented approach in telling three separate stories felt incomplete. Each story was great as a whole but as things progressed, smaller and unnecessary details started to encroach. For example, in the Jason and Marcus story, their mother’s drug abuse and Marcus’ subsequent foster parents seem like they impose on Marcus’ life. The mother plays a vital role early on in their story, but after Jason’s death and social services step in the focus drifts away from what is important - Marcus’ feelings - and more onto a traditional family drama. Similar things for George’s story (Melanie’s departure seems abrupt and then seems like she never existed) and Marie’s (changing direction of her book and the accompanying backlash). The end result is that when everything does intertwine at the end it does so in a way that isn’t natural. It seems like more of a coincidence, something created for the film instead of how events might have played out on their own.
Hereafter wasn’t quite like I pictured it from watching the trailer. Instead of a typical drama focused on George Lonegan’s psychic abilities, the film was actually a well-rounded look at how the experience of death can affect people. It’s structure lends to some problems but for the most part that can be overlooked as you follow these people on their journey for answers.
RATING: 4 out of 5