A drama centered on three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. George (Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter. Written by
Warner Bros. Pictures
Shipped to theaters under the title "Heaven's Playground". See more »
The Tube station where Markus narrowly misses a terrorist bombing is incorrectly identified as Charing Cross Station. None of the July 7 bombings took place anywhere near Charing Cross. The external shot of the station was taken of the Liverpool Street station where one of the bombs actually did explode on a train which had just left the station. The sign on the exterior was digitally altered to Charing Cross. See more »
You know, as a scientist and atheist my mind was closed to such things. Oh, absolutely. Afterlife, near-death experiences Like everyone else, I thought people saw bright lights, Eden-like gardens and so forth because they were culturally conditioned to do so. But after 25 years in a hospice working with people, many of whom were pronounced dead but then miraculously survived. the account of what they actually experienced were so strikingly similar it couldn't just be coincidence. And add to ...
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The mid 80s-late 90's Warner Bros. shield is used and is in black and white at the beginning of the movie, and at the end of the credits, the same Warner Bros. Shield is used alongside the Amblin logo, also in black-and-white. See more »
For some bizarre reason, marketers opted to make Clint Eastwood's latest work look like a rejected script to an M. Night Syamalon movie in its trailers. What with its catastrophic events and plot centric imagery, you'd think Eastwood had made a disaster movie rather than what the reality turns out to be. This is a much more thoughtful film about death that examines how living characters deal with the aftereffects. Matt Damon's character, Lonegan, is not a protagonist but one character in a larger ensemble piece. Naturally, it benefits marketing to try to isolate this certain aspect of the plot to make this look like a thriller, but it is a impressionist character piece by all means. Even the psychic aspect is played down, and never truly explained.
What that reality turns out to be is something akin to one of the time centric French minimalists like Chantal Akerman and Jacques Rivette. While it never of course becomes a four hour movie about household chores like Jeanne Dielman, it nevertheless is one of the most jarringly French art-house-like films to ever be released as a mainstream American film. Eastwood's decision to leave Peter Morgan's script as a rough first draft is likely part of what's drawing criticism, but this is arguably what makes it so effective as well. Narrative coherence is spurned in favor of genuine CINEMA, people behaving on-screen and showing the effects of great turmoil in every little nuance. Eastwood, known for stripping down rewrites to maintain a certain spontaneous quality in his films (and for shooting very few takes) saw something in this script that he knew wouldn't make it to the final draft. This is how it maintains such a minimal quality.
Of course, such methodology is in tune with French filmmakers like Bresson, a filmmaker who would likely be criticized today for his deadpan performances when what he's really doing is drawing attention to actions rather than performances. Eastwood puts a lot of stock in gesture: hands in particular. Hands are prominently shown whenever a character embraces, and they are also the method through which Lonegan is able to make contact with the afterlife. He tries to make connections through a cooking class, in which he must make use of his hands (and which inevitably leads him to touch the hands of others when he wants least to). There's also a generous use of exteriors, with the running theme of loneliness in crowded locations which anybody whose experienced such trauma (or even lesser traumas) can relate to. It sounds like Eastwood is employing the dreaded preference of "things" to "people," but in reality this is a perfect melding of characters to their environment.
None of this is the kind of post-Elia Kazan acting our country is used to, but each of the actors do a remarkable job in communicating in this way. Damon gives the finest performance of his career, and each of the supporting cast is remarkable as well in the way they REACT, rather than act. A jarring change for the star of Gran Torino, perhaps, but one which works for the material.
And that, I think, is why such mixed reactions come out of those who view this film. Eastwood is not making a heightened film about death, but an understated (despite its moments of sensationalism, which serve as counterpoint) exploration of how people deal with death. What makes it even more difficult is that, despite an optimistic conclusion, no definite resolution is ever reached. We never learn the nature behind Lonegan's abilities, we only get hints at how it may have come about. No religious agenda is preached, nor is religion rejected. Such open ended filmmaking is vastly beyond even limited releases, and is usually the kind of stuff found on the Criterion Collection decades after its completion. To have a release like this is astounding, but has likely doomed the film financially.
That would be a shame. In a year that has produced solid work ranging from Sorkin and Fincher's The Social Network, Martin Scorsese's woefully underrated Shutter Island, and the hype-driven juggernaut that was Inception, I think Hereafter ranks among the very best of the year. I would even go so far as to call it the first bonafide masterpiece of the decade. I suspect this places me at odds with many people, some of whom have tried to logically argue with me why this was an incompetent film (to them, I would explain that film is not meant to be dictated by plot logic, the most superficial aspect of filmmaking at best) but as this film goes to show, some things just can't be easily explained away.
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