A rather pedestrian secular meditation on death and the afterlife, Clint Eastwood's ocean-crossing film is buoyed only by strong performances by Matt Damon and Cecile de France. Its plot is plodding, and the eventual meeting of these characters predictable, but Damon is a rare actor who is able to make his characters more interesting in moments of weakness. George's fear of human connection and his rejection of his gift are made palpable in Damon's work - so much so that even the obviously expository scene with Jay Mohr are watchable. De France's tenacious Marie, also a character so obvious to the plot that she defies believability and smells of convenience, is a nice counter-balance to the film.
Overall, this is far from a strong film, but good performances can do a lot.
You are left with a bland supposition that an afterlife exists, but what, why, when and how are left drifting in the wind. Taken at face value you have a script that shows three characters all searching for something. A French journalist survives a near death experience and subsequently can't stop thinking about it and what she believes she "saw" while "officially dead". A young twin is lost without his recently deceased brother and thinks that he should be able to communicate with him.
The 3rd character is Matt Damon, who can see past the veil of death and communicate with dead people. Yeah, he really can, and as he tells us, it's a curse, not a blessing. When he touches a person he gets a kind of shock wave and then can see dead folk who are hanging around in purgatory or some such, waiting to contact the real world. This is kind of unnerving and really makes it hard for Damon to carry on a "normal" relationship (Clint and Co do a nice job with this aspect - showing a potential girl friend who, upon being told by Damon that her father wishes forgiveness for what he did to her, feels that there should be secrets in a relationship so dumps him).
All this is fairly interesting, and Clint directs with a sure hand. The cinematography is beautiful (longtime Clint partner Tom Stern is again the Director of Photography), and yet, for all its earnestness and the tightening of circles within circles involving the three characters, the film simply lacks something... it's as if the three stories just don't have any pizzaz on their own - and only by weaving them together do we get any spark of narrative. Even the ending, which makes perfect sense in a way, left me uninvolved when I should have been happy for the outcome.
In the end, I freely admit that we're all searching for something - be it the face of God, or simply a good hamburger, but while I certainly enjoyed my theology courses in college, I really couldn't get involved with the characters nor the big question of the film: what happens to you when you die? As the journalist's colleague states, getting to the gist of it "the lights go out and there's the endless nothing". I don't really agree with that point of view, but I certainly don't adhere to the conventional notions of heaven and hell either - so maybe Clint has point here after all - just wish the film had more going for it in the here and now.
This drama is about three lonely people each living in different countries whose lives become indelibly connected in an unforseeable, yet touching way. 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.
Honestly, I'm rather puzzled by this film. I think it may have been better under someone else's direction, but I will give Mr. Eastwood props for doing this. Also, while I did find some enjoyment out of this, I do think this film (as is) has a number of issues with it, so, even though there are thigns about it I really liked, and some scenes I really enjoyed, I can only give this a mild recommendation.
The plot concerns three different stories about three different people who all have in common the fact that they have experience with death and the afterlife (or supposed afterlife) in some way or another. One is a trouble former psychic, another is the survivor (barely) of a natural disaster, and the other is a grieving young man.
This film, as some have said, is somewhat of a chore to sit through. It's a bit over two hours, but the main thing is that the pacing is not only slow, it's practically glacial. Also, there's a lot of material here, enough so that there really could have been three separate films- one for each lead, instead of tryign to tell all three storeis in a single film. I do admire the ambitiousness, though.
Besides beign very slow, kinda long, and switching between people, places, and storylines, this film really doesn't have a whole lot to say, leaving much up to speculation. No real answers are given. A couple things I really liked htough were that there was a fair amount of subtitles (the natural disaster survivor is a French woman), and the disaster sequence is extremely well done, and very convincing. Watching it made me think more of Roland Emmerich movies, except more realistic, more restrained, and more gripping in terms of being more than just an assault on the ears and eyes.
I really wish this film could have been far better paced, and had more to say, especially since it's roughly 128 minutes long. It did feel odd that Eastwood was directing it, because it's not really something I think he's suited for, but I won't say that it was a mistake for him to make this.
There's enough here that I liked though, so I think you should perhaps give this one a look.
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.