October 23, 2010

Hereafter


If you're a regular Stagenotes reader, you will know that I have become a certified Clint Eastwood fan. After Invictus, I wanted to see the latest Eastwood-Matt Damon film Hereafter, especially since it deals with the afterlife.

The film starts with a jolt: the devastating 2004 tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Vacationing journalist Marie LeLay's (Cecile de France) brush with death inevitably changes her life when she returns home to France. Across the Channel, we meet twin brothers Marcus and Jason (George and Frankie McLaren) whose special bond is ended by a totally senseless accident. Grief-stricken, the surviving twin sets off on a path to discover if there is life after death.

Across the pond, George Lonegan (Mr. Damon)---yes, he sees dead people---has given up doing readings and struggles to live a normal life in San Francisco. He even attends an Italian cooking class at night, where he meets Melanie ( a grating Bryce Dallas Howard). Meanwhile, his enterprising brother Billy (Jay Mohr) tries to convince him to return to working as a psychic, failing to see that his sibling's ability is "not a gift, but a curse".

All 3 main characters find their lives intersecting, a little too neatly, in the end. But the writer Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and director take their time getting there. This is not a film for everyone. A few people walked out of the theater. The man sitting beside me kept complaining to his wife. But I thought a film about death and dying, and what's beyond, is inherently meditative. The characters have all become seekers, and we the audience members are on board for the journey. The whole time I was sitting there, the word "contemplative" kept popping up in my mind. Even Mr. Eastwood's music score seemed introspective. The filmmakers offered no real answers to the question of whether there is or isn't life after death. But they did leave room for hope.

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