Posted December 28, 2010 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Films


Two years after he
addressed his own age and mortality in acting swansong Gran Torino,
Eastwood is back contemplating death again and, more importantly, the possibility of an
afterlife. Unfortunately, despite focusing on the very idea of dying, this film
never actually comes alive in the first place, with a dull script and inactive
plot that are, in keeping with their themes, utterly moribund.

Switching between
three separate stories, Hereafter starts with a depiction of the 2004 Indian
Ocean tsunami as French TV journalist Marie (France) gets swept up in the
destructive wave and has a near-death experience in which she sees a vision
of an afterlife
Upon re-awakening, she decides to research descriptions of similar experiences
and write a book on the subject.

In the meantime,
George Lonnegan (Damon), a former professional psychic living in San Francisco,
struggles to lead a normal life as his genuine gift for communicating with
the dead
becomes a
disruptive element in his relationships. While his brother tries to persuade him
to restart his business giving readings to the recently bereaved, George is
looking for a way to escape his curse and connect properly with another person.

At the same time, in
London, 12-year-old twins Marcus and Jason fend for themselves thanks to the
neglect of their alcoholic, heroin-addicted mother, but when Jason is
accidentally killed in a car crash
, Marcus is put into foster care. As the heartbroken boy
hides away from his new family, he conducts his own research into life after
death in order to find out what has happened to his twin and to help come to
terms with his loss.

Despite opening with
an impressively realistic portrayal of the 2004 tsunami, in which the chaos and
destruction caused are shown with uncompromising conviction, the film fails to
capitalise on this early excitement and quickly becomes an exercise in coping
with tragedy as the three separate narratives explore bereavement and
existentialism at a snail’s pace
. Even when Marcus witnesses the 2005 London bombings, an
opportunity to show an explosive sequence is wasted in favour of more ‘what
does it all mean’ pondering.

This leads to another
problem: with both Marcus and Marie spending their time trying to confirm the
existence of a ‘hereafter’, their efforts are undermined by George’s gift. The
fact that this improbable supernatural power is never disputed seems to contradict the realism of
the other two storylines and, unfortunately, it leads to some hokey dialogue,
particularly when George laments that “it isn’t a gift, it’s a curse” – a line
that comes straight out of any number of sci-fi/horror/superhero films.

Each of the leads
gives a performance of varying quality, with twins Frankie and George McLaren
coming off worst while portraying Marcus; their inexperience all the more
obvious among more established actors. Matt Damon gets short thrift as George,
because there is little for him to do other than look troubled for most of the
film. Cecile de France, however, stands apart from her co-stars, undertaking a mission that compels
her to try to understand something intangible in her third of the film, which
is almost spoken entirely spoken in French.

Despite a neatly
wrapped, if somewhat, confusing, last scene, the film ultimately has a rather
unsatisfactory ending as no conclusions of any note are reached regarding
the nature of death
Instead, the characters’ story arcs finish, but the audience is left with all
the unanswered questions that opened the film to begin with. Overall, this just
makes Hereafter seem like an exercise in ineffective contemplation.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.