This meditative speculation on the spiritual realm is easily the quietest death-minded movie in the Cineplex this Halloween.
Three strangers are wrestling with death. Marie (Cécile De France: Mesrine: Killer Instinct), a French journalist, is revived after nearly being consumed by the Indian Ocean tsunami and emerges shaken by her brush with the afterlife. Marcus, a British schoolboy, is left rudderless when his twin brother Jason is stolen by tragedy (Frankie and George McLaren in their debut). And George (Matt Damon: Green Zone) is a genuine psychic talent who laments his burden of communing with the dead. Through twists of fate, they are gradually drawn unto convergence, where each may finally find closure with the help of the others.
It’s heavy stuff, playing as independent strands of sad and tragic contemplation that are only gradually braided together toward knotting the frayed ends with healing resolution.
Hereafter is a long mull at just over two hours. Quests to find, know and manage insight on the mysterious afterlife unfold at a slow and deliberate pace, quickening only around flashpoints of disaster and loss. That ambling pace gums up the clock. But while director Clint Eastwood (Invictus) is patient in the telling and perhaps a smidge over-fond of dramatic pause, he does take advantage of the space to develop character-rich human dramas. Screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen) penned smart, complimentary perspectives that deftly explore the pain of loss, at once both blunt and delicate. The search for answers to the unknown drives plot forward and unites the storylines in theme for coherence even when the paths are farthest from intersection.
The wracked and perplexed characters are well-realized, easily empathetic engines for deep consideration of the theme. Marie and Marcus, in particular, are set against recent real-world tragedies and used to add personal perspective on the broader history. Eastwood is adept at striking the delicate tone of partial numbness and drawing the viewer into his characters’ effort to make sense of a suddenly alien world.
As you may have gathered, there’s little relief for furrowed brow. Resuscitating lightness is spare. Rare attempts to shake off the blahs are situational jests received in mourning; characters’ unsure reactions only work to evoke a smirk.
Without an effective release valve, the drama sometimes builds until it’s lacquered on thick, turning sappy in moments such as when George decries his gift/curse or when Marie becomes a crusader for exposing the suppressed truths of metaphysics.
Still, all things considered, this is a quality film. It’s worth a see if you’re steeled for a downer with moderate uplift.