Review: “Hereafter” a Lifeless Disappointment

When talents like director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Peter Morgan team up, expectations are reasonably high. Sadly, “Hereafter,” a film about three people struggling with unique mortality issues, falls far short.

The three protagonists of “Hereafter” are George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a psychic who can speak with the dead, a gift he has chosen not to use; Marie Lelay (Cecile De France), a French journalist who has a near-death experience after being pulled under by a tsunami; and Marcus, a young boy whose twin brother dies (Frankie and George McLaren).

The characters move inexorably toward one another throughout the film, but it’s at a pace so excruciatingly slow that it’s hard to stay invested in any of them. Worse still, Eastwood and Morgan focus on each character for such long stretches that it’s often 20 minutes or more between glimpses of each one, making any kind of connection difficult.

Among the classic cinematic themes, Death is a favorite, providing rich fodder over the years. But there’s nothing really fresh here. George feels that, “A life about death is no life at all.” Check. Marie crossed over briefly into the great beyond, having experienced weightless, seen a light and hundreds of souls. Check. And Marcus feels as though is lost a part of himself, been left behind, a sensation heightened by having lost a twin. Check and check.

When George, Marie and Marcus do finally meet, Morgan’s thesis statement is revealed, “We obviously have a long way to go before we can deal with death and what follows.” Um, yeah, thanks for that. Mankind has been wrestling with that Beast pretty much since forever and no one really thinks the issue has been settled.

The one conceit about death touched upon in “Hereafter” that might’ve been fun to explore—in a genre/thriller kind of way—is the “Conspiracy of Silence” about near-death experiences that Marie uncovers. It seems that science has proven that folks come back from the Great Beyond all the time, only to have The Man keep things under wraps. That movie at least might have been fun.

The score is hard to take, as the each drag of the violin’s bow is like a whack over the head telling you, “FEEL SAD.” It’s not that the music is bad, but in a film this quiet, still and low-key, it is so often the dominant sensory input. It’s too much.

"Hereafter" is thoughtful, sincere and honest throughout, and on a purely technical level features some fine filmmaking, but it ultimately fails to bring anything fresh to the conversation about death and what lies beyond. 

"Hereafter" is in limited release today, before going into wider release next week

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