Matt Damon’s new film “Hereafter,” although compelling, provides no answers to what comes after death and might not be worth the eight dollars and two hours spent to learn nothing.
In the story a French journalist, an American psychic and a young English boy, all experience death and are only able to cope when, by chance, they all meet.
It is interesting to watch how these three different people with very separate lives in different countries come together. And although the characters feel better when they connect they still don’t learn the much desired secret to what happens after that last ragged breath.
In the opening sequence, a tsunami tears apart a beautiful island where one of the main characters played by C?cile De France, (“Gardiens de l’ordre”) is vacationing. When she gets caught in the crushing waves of the ocean and is slammed into a fallen pole, she dies, and by some miracle she comes back to life. The experience changes her entire life and she leaves her old profession of broadcast journalism behind to write a book on what happened to her.
Meanwhile, the American psychic played by Damon (“Green Zone”), who no longer wants to give readings due to losing so many relationships because of his gift, is forced by his brother to reenter the psychic world when he gets laid off from his factory job. But, adamant about leaving his calling, he escapes to London where he meets the French woman and a young English boy.
This boy, played by newcomer Frankie McLaren, depends on his twin brother instead of his drug dependent mother. And when his brother gets killed by a car on the way back from buying a prescription to help their mother detox, he begins a search to find his brother again.
Damon, delivers a fantastic performance as the reluctant psychic and heats up the screen with Bryce Dallas Howard (“Twilight: Eclipse”), who is also coincidentally director Ron Howard’s daughter. Unfortunately her character is not fully developed and could probably have been left out.
Because Clint Eastwood (“Gran Torino”) both produced and directed the film it is shot beautifully. He uses lighting in a way that adds tension and drama without crossing into the almost laughable high contrast light and shadow most recognizable in noirs. He also pairs his actors well and is able to extract both drama and playfulness from the entire cast.
However, the special effects leave something to be desired. They are good enough to get the point across and create the appropriate emotions but any movie that wants to wow a crowd with special effects now after “Inception” took the world by storm needs to kick it up a notch.
Anyone looking for an action movie or an enlightening peek into the world after death should be prepared to know that this is a character study although it is not as dark as could be expected. It shows how three particular people deal with life and death supplemented by touching moments and humorous instances. These characters’ stories are so compelling that the two hour and nine minute film seems to fly by.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of “Hereafter” is what is left out. In most films about death and what happens after religion is at the center of the plot. Here, however, religion is only mentioned once or twice and instead of being the answer it is more of a question. Rather than discuss the idea of Heaven, the characters seem to suggest that there is just a white space where people can be everything all at once. It has no name or religious connotations. Also interesting is the fact that after these deathly experiences none of the characters turn to religion to cope or search for answers.
Regrettably the ending is quite abrupt. But as a movie titled “Hereafter” it probably can’t be entirely satisfying without a decisive answer to the question of what happens after we die. Overall it is a compelling piece more about living than the “Hereafter.”
Though an entire tissue box will not be needed, audiences should be prepared to shed a tear or two. But for those reluctant to spend time and money, it might be worth the DVD wait.
2.5 out of 5 stars