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Hereafter (2010) **

October 22, 2010

 

Written by: Peter Morgan

Produced by: Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy, and Robert Lorenz

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language

129 mins

U.S. Release Date: October 22, 2010


Clint Eastwood is responsible for bringing some of Hollywood’s biggest films to the movie-going public for the last 50+ years.  From The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Dirty Harry to Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood has excelled in nearly every endeavor he has put himself into in terms of filmmaking.  The man has credits in acting, directing, composing, producing, writing, and camera operating, and is still pumping out major films at age 80.  Mr. Eastwood’s latest project, Hereafter, is about peoples’ experiences with death and the “other side”, and how those experiences bring them together.  With Eastwood getting old and approaching the twilight of his life, is nostalgia and sentimentality bleeding too deeply into his work, or will the execution of this subject matter resonate with viewers?

 

 

Hereafter follows the stories of three people, separated by thousands of miles, who are all experiencing a strange connection to the afterlife; the “other side”.  George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar worker from the U.S. who has a special talent, connecting living people with loved ones from the afterlife.  He shuns the talent, though he used to use it as his primary source of income, because it constantly exposes his mind to too many depressing and difficult situations.

 

 

Marie (Cécile De France) is a journalist from France that experiences a brush with the “other side” and it changes her worldview drastically.  This change seems more like a curse than a blessing, as it isolates her from many of the close relationships in her life.  Given her new insight from beyond, Marie starts to write a book about her experiences and visions.

 

Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren) is a small boy from London, who recently lost someone very close to him in an accident.  He lives in a broken home with a druggie mother, so he must pursue his quest for answers on his own.  With the help of the internet, Marcus searches for people with answers, and visits as many clairvoyants and psychics (a.k.a. “con men”) as he can.  You probably see where this storyline is going.

 

 

Throughout the film, the storylines are woven together as each lead characters experience their interactions with the afterlife, and as they work to make sense of their new insights or questions.  As the characters’ paths grow closer to intersecting, the film seems to be heading toward a big crescendo that will result in a revelation or message about the afterlife.  But not really.

 

That is my basic problem with this film.  Clint Eastwood knows how to make a film.  He understands the main components that go into a successful project, from music to writing to directing, etc.  Each of these characters has an engaging and compelling storyline, but as they intersect, nothing really happens.  The truth is, almost no one knows or understands what happens after we die (there are, of course, people who have died and been revived who claim remembrance of the experiences they had in “the beyond” – I don’t deny the validity of that), and Eastwood continues the universally indefinite message with this film.  His overarching message is really no message at all: “We’re all going to die, and we don’t know what happens when we get there.”

 

On the screenwriting front, if the film wasn’t telegraphing a major connection at the end that really never happens (I’m not spoiling anything here – you see some characters together in the trailer), it might have been a little more successful.  All moviegoers can relate to the idea of death and lost loved ones, and the like.  However, when Eastwood takes this broad topic, and narrows it down to an anticlimactic and personal storyline, the finale of Hereafter falls a bit flat.

 

 

Most of the acting performances are fairly well executed given the material provided.  The problem with them, however, is not in the acting itself, but with the lack of screen time they each get.  In such a limited amount of screen time, here is a inability to progress each character’s arch the way it demands.

 

If you love all of Clint Eastwood’s work, there’s nothing I’m going to say to stop you from seeing this movie.  Not that it’s horrible or anything, but it is definitely lacking the substance it requires given the topic.  If you are an Eastwood scholar of sorts, you might find particular interest in this film’s subject matter and how it relates to Eastwood’s personal life.  Other than that, I might wait to watch this when it comes out on DVD.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    October 23, 2010 1:49 pm

    methinks that Clint Eastwood is starting to realize his mortality! 🙂

    I saw the previews, and I have to say that it didn’t look all that great to me. Although I have loved a lot of what Eastwood has done. Maybe it’s because I am pretty sure I know what happens after we die! LOL So I’m not exactly curious! 🙂

  2. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    May 15, 2011 1:32 am

    Wow. What an emotional movie!

    *Spoiler(kinda)*
    I think the point of the ending is that our connections with people right here on earth is what matters. It feels a bit disconnected to the previous two hours and I think it’s supposed to. Eastwood wouldn’t give us such an emotional movie then drop so much emotion at the end for no reason. Most movies start out calm then build to a big emotional ending, whereas this one starts out with extremely intense emotion which slowly dissipates. He gives us a happy ending, but the happiness lies not in intense emotion but in stability. It’s a brilliant movie.

  3. May 15, 2011 6:35 am

    This movie is not good.

  4. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    May 15, 2011 2:16 pm

    “This movie is not good.”

    There’s a lot of film critics who would disagree with your glib assessment, and not just because it implies that your judgement should be held above all others, nor because it doesn’t promote discussion. Many A-list critics have high praise for this film.

    Peter Travers of ROLLING STONE – “It’s typical of Eastwood’s mastery as a director that his approach to the topic is introspective, not inflammatory….It’s exhilarating to watch these two talents (director and screenwriter) explore new ground without bias or trendy cynicism. Hereafter, set to a resonant Eastwood score, truly is haunting.”

    A.O. Scott of THE NEW YORK TIMES – ““Hereafter”… is quiet, gorgeous and contemplative. What does seem new — newly strange, newly beautiful — is what “Hereafter” makes of the here and now. (It is) an unusual experience and an open-ended inquiry into something nobody can really claim to understand. It leaves you wondering, which may be the most fitting way of saying that it’s wonderful.”

    Roger Ebert of THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES – “Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” considers the idea of an afterlife with tenderness, beauty and a gentle tact. I was surprised to find it enthralling.” “This is a film for intelligent people…”

    I loved it. I think if one is only wrapped up in the story and not it’s themes, which run very deep, then one will likely miss the point. Eastwood has given up many clues throughout the movie that can point one in the direction of understanding. “It’s not a gift, it’s a curse”, and *SPOILER* – turning away from the past (associations with dead loved ones) towards the present (Damon realizing that his innate humanity may have more healing power for the little boy than his psychic abilities, one woman who rejects a present happiness with Damon for a connection to her past while another woman who earlier stated that she is never a victim moves forward with only a human connection to him). The whole movie should be seen as allegory, with many associations about using the past and using people for commercial reasons, over-coming one’s past, and finding truth in the grey areas between reality and fantasy. There’s so much to think about, but it is well-balanced with a deep emotional weightiness. Finding happiness in stability and in our human connections triumphs over the false passions connected to the past. The arch of the film matches this theme, which is why the ending is so perfect, and should be the biggest clue to look under the surface of the story to find the deeper meaning.

  5. May 15, 2011 2:52 pm

    OR… you just got your soft spot hit by a lazy and subpar effort. 54% of ALL critics on the internet thought this film was garbage. Eastwood is an Oscar bait director and it finally caught up with him. You can claim, with ANY movie, that you can “look deeper” to find a hidden meaning. Eastwood is just counting on that group of people to bring meaning to his junk movie. Sorry.

    • mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
      May 15, 2011 5:03 pm

      Completely disagree with you. I’m with the other 46%, I guess.

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