This life may fly, but HEREAFTER
Clint Eastwood’s new offering moves toooo slooooowly. Slow doesn’t mean bad, but it doesn’t mean good, either. There are some lovely moments, some poignant moments, and some heart-breaking moments. This glimpse of “The Afterlife” -- and it is only a glimpse -- is divided among the experiences of three people: a lonely and burned-out psychic, a French tele-journalist who has had a near-death experience, and a young English boy who longs to communicate with his dead twin brother.
Matt Damon expertly portrays George Lonegan, a native San Franciscan who became psychic after a serious childhood illness. He has tried to run away from his “gift” by taking a factory job; his “gift” tends to either alienate people or become an obsession for them. His brother Billy, played by Jay Mohr, sees him as a cash cow who just won’t cooperate and doesn’t understand his brother’s profound loneliness. Billy wants to re-activate the website that George used to have and rake in the big bucks. However, for George, his ability to communicate with the departed is like a Midas’s touch – it makes any true connection with the living impossible. Damon makes George eminently human and allows an impossible situation to seem entirely believable.
The French television journalist, Marie LeLay, is played by the stunning French actress Cecile De France. While on vacation in Indonesia, she is swept away by a tsunami and is barely able to be revived. She saw what comes “after” while unconscious and not breathing. Of course, no one close to her understands the profound way this has changed her, and one by one, they abandon her. With her career in shambles, she decides to write a book about the prejudice against those who’ve been near death and those who are dying. The segments filmed in France are done in French with English sub-titles, and I found these scenes to be much more interesting than those in English. Maybe it’s the seductive sound of the French language. I swear you could say “this garbage stinks” in French and it would sound sexy! Actually, I have a feeling that it’s the amazingly natural acting style of the French performers.
The English twins Marcus and Jason are played by real-life twins Frankie and George McLaren. Their sensitive and mature performances are a highlight in the film. Their story, as you can guess, is the heart-breaking one. Although sometimes painful to watch, their story is more compelling than even the tsunami scene. Resolution, and validation, comes for all three story lines when the characters are united by circumstance in London.
The transitions among the three story lines are often abrupt which makes the story hard to follow at times, so the film becomes much better when the main characters are all in one place at the end. Also, Eastwood never met a soaring musical interlude he didn’t like, so the score is sometimes a bit overwhelming. Sweeping views of beautiful landscapes in the film’s global venue are appealing, but they contribute to its initial slow pace. This is, after all, not a travelogue, and the viewer begins to itch to just get on with the story.
If you’re hoping to get an answer to the often-asked question “What happens when we die?”, you won’t. The afterlife described as beautiful and peaceful by the character Marie actually appears kind of creepy and weird in the vague, veiled images shown during her “death.” Even George’s communications provide little information since the “spirits” mainly talk about what is going on with their loved one, not what they’re doing on the other side.
In the end, HEREAFTER turns out to be more about the here and now. The actor’s strong performances save this film from the cinematic graveyard, but the viewer has to work a little bit to keep up with the 3-in-1 plot line. The last quarter of the film makes it worth seeing, FYI.