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On the way home from seeing this terrific movie, I stopped at a light,
a few cars in front waiting to turn right. Around us, the sun had just
set, a full white moon was high and the reflections of brake lights
bounced off gas stations and car dealerships.
What an amazing world we live in. There is so much in the five miles between my house and the theater where I saw the movie that I could never experience it all. Moments arrive and disappear and the the people shift, move, appear and disappear.
I think most of us need some kind of assurance that it all goes on forever, that our open windows aren't just blacked over and sealed at death.
Clint Eastwood has made a quiet, reflective, thoughtful film on this condition, this need for forever. It's not a flashy paranormal probe of ghosts and goblins, spirits and such.
Taking three central lives we see our need for a hereafter from a French woman who has experienced something before being revived, from a twin boy who has lost his brother and from a lonely man who seems able to capture something from beyond this life. Or perhaps he just captures something from those who come to him.
Cecile De France is stunning as a television reporter who touches her own death and returns. Frankie (or is it George) McLaren is good as the young boy. And Matt Damon's restrained performance is a revelation.
Eastwood has the assured hand that allows long segments in French with English subtitles and a juncture with two disasters and such a touchy-feely subject, and yet it works. Quietly. Thoughtfully.
He also has the good sense to let us draw our own conclusions.
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
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.
The viewer doesn't know quite what to expect when sitting down to watch
"Hereafter". I went in thinking it would be something a bit spooky, or
mind-bending like "Inception". What I experienced was even more
fascinating - and thought provoking - leading me to ask more questions
than I would have answers.
"Hereafter" presents you with fascinating characters - literally from the first few minutes of the film, you find yourself both riveted and squirming to look away. Scenes from a vicious tsunami that takes the lives of hundreds of thousands leaves the viewer feeling shocked and empty -- but what follows in the aftermath is what is truly astounding.
The acting in this movie is absolutely superb. From Matt Damon's portrayal of George - a man who has abandoned his psychic gift (or what he considers to be a curse) for a more simple and obscure life as a factory worker... to Cecile De France's talented portrayal of Marie, a French journalist who experiences a tragedy of such enormity you wonder how she will ever get back to living a 'normal' life... to young George and Frankie McLaren's work as the adorable Marcus and Jason - British twins who must contend with their mother's drug abuse and, later, a tragedy that will tear them apart - the viewer is left to feel as if they are literally part of the story. You rally for the characters - and yearn to see how their fate will unfold. The intersection of all of their lives is what is so fascinating.
While I went into "Hereafter" expecting something a bit obscure and mind-bending, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this film is a drama that delves into not only the topic of life after death - but life itself. Clint Eastwood does an amazing job at giving us a look into the peace and mystery that awaits us on the other side... but also the joy and beauty of what is right in front of us.
"Hereafter" was a pleasant surprise. While some questions remain at the end of the film, I feel it is a perfect ending to a film about a topic as mysterious as life after death. At one point in the film, Thierry Neuvic's character, Didier, makes the comment that if there were life after death, it would have been proved by now. By the end of the film, you realize that the most wonderful and amazing events in life cannot necessarily be proved - but with enough faith and through fate - everything lines up exactly as it should.
This drama is about three lonely people each living in different
countries whose lives become indelibly connected in an unforseeable,
yet touching way. The story centers on Matt Damon, an American, who
apparently has the psychic ability of contacting the recently departed,
however, he believes that this "gift" is a "curse" because it renders
him a social outcast. There is also a French woman who has a near death
experience and a troubled British boy grieving over the loss of a loved
I am not a firm believer in a hereafter life or psychic abilities, and what is great about this movie is that it addresses these issues in an intelligent way without asking the audience to debate their existence. Instead, it focuses on the characters and how these issues affect their lives. There is nothing cheap or gimmicky about this movie. It simply tells a touching story without being overly sentimental. Clint Eastwood delivers a great picture and Matt Damon an excellent performance. The round-out cast deserves a big-hand as well. Keep in mind that this is a character drama and, like cooking a good sauce, takes its time to develop a richness. So if you're the type of person who only responds to immediate sensory gratification, this movie might not be for you.
An emotional film (bring some hankies) exploring the love of children for their mother, the loss of a loved one, and the near-death experiences of the two main characters. The acting is superb, particularly the young McLaren brothers and Cecile DeFrance. I applaud Clint Eastwood for taking this risk and creating a solid piece with riveting emotions and a fantastic conclusion. The only leap of faith that must be taken is the belief that George (Matt Damon) truly has this gift/curse since it is the thread that weaves through all his relationships. This is truly an enjoyable movie and adds to my belief that the greatness of a film is not in the critic's eyes but in your own. This is the second sleeper movie of the week for me. The first one was RED...a great, entertaining movie.
I'm amazed at the amount of attacks this wondrous picture has suffered
so far. I don't know whether it's Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon, or an
overstated publicity before its opening. Would it have received
different reviews if it had been directed or starred by other people, I
don't know! The movie is SUPREME! It's probably going to be the best
movie I will have watched this year. I don't deny that at first I was
so put off watching itbecause of your reviews, of course, and because
I originally thought it would grapple with bereavement and loss and all
spooky depressing mattersbut an initial 10 min proved I had been
greatly mistaken, and misled. It's been time since I've followed such a
delicate and lovely storyline. It reminds me of movies like Sleepless
in Seattle, The Adjustment Bureau and Jet Lag. It's much better and
sophisticated in romance, for that matter; the romantic element runs
almost surreptitiously, without you noticing it, till it is consummated
in the end. The multi-plot scenario is really authentic, despite some
reservations I have toward the Irish twins story. Some may criticize by
stating its slow pace, but in my opinion it couldn't have been brought
out another way; this is drama, people, not an action or horror flick.
This is a very bright, profound and unusual work of art. I may have my takes on some points in the scenario, the attitude towards Christianity in particular (which was quite unexpected given the spiritual dimension of the movieas if they were trying to re-found spirituality without religion!); but all in all, a fascinating picture.
Hereafter is a slow, quiet study on the effect that death and the
dearly departed have on the living.
It's not really a ghost story or even a very supernatural movie. The three main characters each have felt death's power in different ways in their life. George (Matt Damon), a man who can contact the deceased, has fled from his abilities because they keep him from having a normal life. Marie (Cecile de France) is a journalist who has a near-death experience during a tsunami, and becomes consumed with understanding what she saw. And in London, a young British boy is desperate to contact a lost family member one last time.
The three separate stories do eventually connect, but that's not really where the value of Hereafter lies. I can see this film being a source of frustration for some viewers eager for a traditional conflict and resolution or character arc, but those things aren't really Eastwood's priority.The movie doesn't have much of a "point", other than how death is such an important part of all of our lives, even as it's also probably the most mysterious.
I liked it, but I'm hesitant in recommending it. Slow-paced movies like these need the right audience. It's fairly different from Eastwood's other movies, and I wouldn't mind seeing him tackle something like this, again.
Clint Eastwood has once again proved himself to be a formidable
director. The style and structure of storytelling used in Hereafter
will not appeal to a large audience, but something tells me he knew
this all too well but honestly, didn't care and rightfully so. Because
let's face it, he can afford it and it's certainly a privilege he has
earned. And with Hereafter, it seems that all Mr. Eastwood wants to do
is share a story. A very beautiful one at that.
Hereafter is divided into three story lines, spread over three different countries. We have Matt Damon as a reluctant psychic in the United States, Cécile De France who plays a journalist in France and a young pair of twin brothers (Frankie and George McLaren) in England. All of these peoples' lives are in one way or another affected by different aspects of death, whether that be a near-death experience or the passing of someone very dear. Or, in Damons case, the ability to establish a certain connection with those who are no longer with us. Eastwood has decided on a particularly art house-like approach, which, like I mentioned earlier, will certainly back off a large amount of potential viewers. However, I personally very much appreciate his decision. He has obviously chosen not to make this some big, hyped-up monster movie about all things paranormal. Instead, Hereafter deals with its subject with great integrity and subtlety. Although, despite said subtlety, it features a few moments which are, by contrast, incredibly intense and shocking (in a non-scary way). In fact, I would even go so far as to say it is not for the faint of heart, but I mean that mostly in an emotional sense, rather than a spectacular one. On a side note, I would actually not recommend this film to anyone who has, in any way, shape or form been confronted with the 2004 tsunami, or even the London terrorist attacks. It might be really confronting, so be advised.
I personally think the film's rating of 6.7 is a bit low, but on the other hand I do somewhat understand why this film has not received the appreciation it deserves. Simply put, not everyone (actually, many people) will not understand it. It is a small story, for a small audience. Also, anyone watching this because they think it's all about Matt Damon will be somewhat deceived. I fully understand why they put his name and picture on the poster, since he is the only big name on the payroll. But this is really not 'his' film, he just plays a part in it. And he does it well, but the rest of the cast actually deserves a great deal of credit, because they are quite simply phenomenal. And I mean *all* of them. Cécile de France is really impressive, she plays her part with great dignity and empathy. She truly carries every scene she's in, and she will definitely do her country proud. Personally, I was most affected (both story- and acting wise) by the 'London segment' of the film. The story of the two young brothers is absolutely heartbreaking, and the McLaren boys do a superb job at translating this onto the screen. Anyone who doesn't at least feel a shudder of emotion when watching their story unfold, well... honestly doesn't have a lot of heart. I refuse to give away any plot points at all, other than what I already have. This is really the kind of story you just need to surrender to in order to really appreciate it. The pacing demands some patience, but if this is your kind of film it really won't be too much trouble and you will be greatly rewarded.
The way the story unfolds (the three-way structure, which doesn't come together until the very end), inevitably evokes comparison to 'Babel', but honestly, that one cost me a far greater deal of effort to sit through than Hereafter. But that is entirely personal of course, and the structure is really the only similarity between the two; the stories are completely different. And I also think Hereafter is actually far more accessible than Babel, despite its subject matter. The stories are told with such tenderness that it didn't actually bother me at all that they were three separate stories which, until the end, had nothing to do with each other. They all intrigued me in their own personal way.
Actually, I could go on and on...
It's been a long time since a film has really touched my heart, but this one has. I've been thinking about what rating I should give it, but honestly, I can't think of a single reason why I wouldn't give this film a 10. Hereafter is a film of true beauty, a real gem. Which, unfortunately, won't be understood by many people, but who knows... Perhaps someday, its time will come.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Greetings again from the darkness. One of the advantages to not being
dependent upon movie reviews for food and shelter is that there is no
concern for a superstar holding a grudge against me and my opinions.
Make no mistake, director Clint Eastwood is a Hollywood powerhouse and
also one of the most consistently fine filmmakers working today. Still,
no one bats a thousand ... this is a miss, with barely a swing.
The film follows three basic stories. The first revolves around George Lonegan (Matt Damon), who seemingly has true psychic abilities. The problem is that George does not wish to have anything to do with his "powers". The second involves twin brother, Marcus and Jason, who live with their druggie mom. Things change quickly when Jason is hit and killed by a truck and Marcus is taken away while his mom rehabs. The third story has Marie LeLay (Cecile De France) as an investigative reporter who gets caught in a tsunami while vacationing and has a "near death experience".
I will not go into detail for any of the three stories other than to say Jay Mohr plays Damon's money-grubbing brother who wants to take his talent to the big time; the sadness of the surviving twin is tough to take at times as he searches for a connection to his dead brother; and lastly, Marie's near-death brings her closer to life than she ever was before.
What is most surprising, given the pedigree of Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan (The Queen, Last King of Scotland) is that this movie and each of these stories are, for lack of a better word, quite boring. We really get little insight into any of the characters - other than the overall sadness each shows regularly. The sub-story with the most interest involves a brief encounter with a secret research clinic sporting a Nobel Prize winner. The clinic evidently has much research and data on this topic.
As you have already guessed, these three stories intersect near the film's end. This is a ploy that is all too common in Hollywood these days. I won't give away how it all comes together, but it bordered on eye-rolling. The film does not depend upon the viewer's beliefs or understanding, though I personally believe some people do have a heightened sense of awareness and connection. That's not really what it's about. It's more about sadness, loneliness and the need for personal connection while alive.
As usual, Mr. Eastwood has put together a terrific score. And I will gladly admit that the first 7-10 minutes of the film, including the tsunami were captivating ... and I loved the connection with Charles Dickens. That's the best I can offer for the film, and here's hoping Eastwood's biopic on J Edgar Hoover brings significantly more interest and entertainment value.
The pacing of this film did not bother me. Of course, I am over 50, so
I can actually sit still through a slower paced storyline that includes
a number of different characters, without something blowing up, or
someone getting undressed to keep my attention.
What did bother me, perhaps comes from a unique view from others reviewing the film. As one who has experienced an NDE, I was disappointed with both the flimsy, and undeveloped view of the female lead's experience, and the ambiguous way in which her story unfolded.
On one hand, we have a character whose NDE was so life-altering, as to divert her from her primary job as a political reporter, into someone who writes a book extolling the difficulty in revealing the truth in the modern media world about the validity of the NDE experience. The dust jacket on her book, as well as casual references to her research, talk about all of the expert testimony that support the overwhelming facts about NDE experiences, and the correlation between science and the afterlife. And then the movie tells us nothing.
The script (or perhaps what was left after Eastwood edited the script) simply glosses over anything substantial in the way of research, except to talk about a Nobel laureate who was ridiculed after revealing his research. One line...out of over two and a half hours of script.
The question to me, is why start the conversation, if you aren't going to offer even a small slice of the answers? The research is voluminous. Those of us who have experienced an NDE know that it is far more than a chemical reaction to the body starting to shut down. Much more.
But, all we are left with in this movie, is a lead character who doesn't want to acknowledge his gift, even in the face of those around him who believe in a "hereafter," more than he does.
Anyone who has experienced an NDE will find this movie sadly unfulfilling. But perhaps, it will bring many more of us to admit to what happened, and start a much more meaningful dialogue about the facts.
As a few of the younger reviewers mentioned, a vast majority of the audience was over 50. No doubt many of those there were looking for answers about the "aferlife," for one reason or another.
It would have been a great chance to tell the world something substantial. But in the end the movie was a nice idea, with slow execution...and painfully unfulfilling.
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