Hereafter (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Hereafter (2010)

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Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don't care about them.  You are not alone.
-Kurt Vonnegut-

ANDREW LIKEI was moved by Hereafter in a way that willed me to recall this great quote from Kurt Vonnegut, that wonderful humanist.  Cynics may scoff at the spirituality of Hereafter but miss the underlying optimism and realism of the message buried in the text.  We're here and then we're not, let's be of some comfort to one another in the meantime.  Anything else is up for interpretation.

It doesn't start with this breath of life.  Instead we watch as Marie (Cecile de France) gets up and goes to the market in Thailand.  It's 2004, and for those of you up on your geographical disasters you may be able to guess what happens next.  The rest of us sit as a tidal wave rears back and comes plunging into the landscape.  Marie hits her head and nearly drowns but not before seeing glimpses of shadowy figures immersed in peaceful white light.

In America, George (Matt Damon) is asked to give a psychic reading to a client of his brother.  George had his own brush with death when he was little and since then he gets visions about the dead.  He used to use it as a calling card to make money but quickly realized that living his life solely for the dead was no way for him to go through life and he gave it up.  Finally in England, there's the tragedy of Marcus (Frankie McLaren) and his twin brother Jason (George McLaren).  They do their best to hide their mom's heroin addiction from social services but when Jason is out getting some prescriptions to help her cravings he is struck and killed by a van.

The harbinger of change, and reminder of how fragile all this is.

These three stories remain mostly separate until the threads of movie logic inevitably pull them together.  Admittedly, the weakest part of the movie is when the three are finally one, but until then things progress at a leisurely and sensitive light to human experience.

There are no grand political gestures here, no attempt at bringing God's wrath down on anyone.  What we see here is how the increased level of globalization is bringing spiritual beliefs together in a way that may bring greater happiness to all, regardless of their future.  Director Clint Eastwood wisely keeps organized religion mostly out of the picture but does provide another honest and positive role for a priest, as well as a short-sighted counterpoint from a less convincing pastor and a terrifying lesson in theology from an imam.  Despite Marcus' experiences in Hereafter, his introduction to the angel of death via those haunting Youtube clips have paved the way to a life of skepticism.

Shelving religion early, Eastwood and screenwriter Peter Morgan (of The Queen) focus solely on what it means to deal with death and how we look for answers via our and other people's experiences.  Marcus begins his hunt through those Youtube clips and other spirit mediums that are clear shams.  George tries to shut himself off from people because he can't help what he sees, but can't stop feeling attraction for that young girl that just joined his cooking class.  Marie has a book to write, and horrifies her French publishers (who, admittedly, are also drawn a little broad) because her research into her near-death experience would need to be published for "An American market...probably in English."

Jay Mohr pops in as Damon's brother and injects some much-needed humor into his life, even if he's blind to George's pain.

On and on they search for answers while tenderly looking for advice from new parents, lovers or old mentors.  Eastwood and cinematographer Tom Stern keep things looking fairly funeral, but with wonderful splashes of vitality.  Things are mostly gray and dark but color strikes out when the characters are tempted back to the zest of life, such as when George slices up a juicy red tomato that screams to have a bit taken out of it.

The overall point of Hereafter is to take what we have in this life and not to worry about the next.  In the beginning Marie, George and Marcus are all consumed with death in their every step.  But in the end no one is certain where we go and Marcus, the living relic of Jason, reminds everyone that death is for the more for the living than those who have moved on.  Shouldn't the focus be on life instead?

Hereafter is simple, lean, consistently poignant and always touching no matter the contrivances.  George's experiences are real (in the context of the film), but is knowing more about the end of that tunnel really worth it in the end?  The handsome man and the pretty girl locked arm in arm don't seem to think so.  I, with a full heart thanks to this film, have to agree.

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Hereafter (2010)

Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Screenplay by Peter Morgan.
Starring Matt Damon,  Cecile de France, and Frankie and George McLaren.

Posted by Andrew

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