Review: Hereafter


Matt Damon and Frankie McLaren in Hereafter, from Rotten Tomatoes

There are three storylines in Hereafter, Clint Eastwood's latest flick. These focus on three characters who all have some connection to death and/or the afterlife: Matt Damon's George in San Francisco, Frankie McLaren's young Marcus in London, and Cécile De France's Marie in Paris. The film jumps around between them until their stories slightly converge.

George is a humble psychic who doesn't like to give readings and tells his brother (Jay Mohr), "A life that's all about death is no life at all." He blames his "gift" for his lack of a social life. Marie is a French journalist who barely survives the Asia tsunami and becomes obsessed with the "hereafter" after that experience. Marcus is dealing with the death of a very close relative (and his story is made to coincide with the 2005 London bombings).

Covering such a heavy topic as death and what comes next, it's disappointing how emotionally detached Hereafter leaves the viewer. As Marcus says good night to the container holding his relative's ashes, I felt slightly connected to his plight. However, this is primarily due to the performance by McLaren, and is only one of a few such moments.

Hereafter doesn't deal well in subtleties. Perhaps because the script the movie is based on was just a draft? When the audience is supposed to cry, there's a good chance it's raining outside. Such a tired cliche is unexpected from a respected director like Eastwood.

Eastwood also takes some missteps where the music is concerned. The director composes the music used in his films; I had to wonder how another composer might better have handled the music for Hereafter. While Marie and her boyfriend Didier (Thierry Neuvic) are having an uncomfortable dinner discussion about her brief glimpse of the afterlife, the music playing loudly against them is happy and light. It doesn't fit and detracts from the action in the scene.

I won't spoil the ending, but the way Eastwood (ab)uses the string section in the last scene is so heavy-handed that I groaned in protest in the theater. The type of audience that would come and see a movie that uses subtitles a quarter of the time is likely able to infer some things about the situation onscreen. It doesn't need to be spelled out so explicitly.

Hereafter has some points in its favor -- terrific special effects, a nice performance by Bryce Dallas Howard as a love interest for George, and a cameo by Derek Jacobi, even. But the cheesy ending threw a damper on any good feelings I might have had about the movie.

"Hereafter" is an excellent

"Hereafter" is an excellent movie. No chase, no murders, good acting and fine plot. Those who pan it for its ending are just wanting more action/death. This one makes you feel glad you went to see it.