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Thoughtful and Creepy
What does it mean to be alive? Not a question you're going to find broached in 10,000 B.C. or 2012. But it is a question first time director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo tackles in After.Life with surprising depth and skill. Christina Ricci plays Anna, a woman disconnected from her almost fiancé (Justin Long) and alienated by her mother, who moves about her days in a mostly apathetic haze. For the most part Anna's life seems, well, rather lifeless - until she wakes up on mortician Liam Neeson's slab only to learn that she is in fact dead. What exactly that means is the mystery.
My favorite way to see a movie is when I know next to nothing about it (so I won't spoil anything here!), and that's how I went into the AFI screening of After.Life last night. I knew the basic premise and a little about the story, but other than that - nada. Which I have to say is a great way to approach a thriller. The highlight for me was Liam Neeson (no real surprise there) who brings surprising warmth and complexity to what could have otherwise easily been a very two-dimensional character. The other standout was Chandler Canterbury as Jack, Anna's young student who has a little figuring out of his own to do. Their performances alone are worth the price of admission. The director's attention to detail, dream imagery, and color (most notably a scene where Neeson washes the dye from Ricci's hair as she lies stretched across an embalming table) reminded me of the stark, Gothic beauty of Six Feet Under and Dexter. That said, this film isn't cut and dry, doesn't tie everything up neatly at the end, and asks more questions than it answers. It's definitely not your typical American movie - something I consider a positive aspect. If you don't, then I'd suggest skipping this one an netflixing Twister.