Hereafter

2011-01-20 09:13
 
What it's about:

Hereafter tells three interconnecting stories, all related in some way to death. In the first story, a psychic struggles with the fact that his abilities stop him from connecting with other people. In the second, a young boy desperately searches for a way to contact the spirit of his recently deceased twin brother. In the third, a woman has a near-death experience, almost drowning during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy, and sets out for an answer to the vision she experienced as she lay at death's door.
 
What we thought:

Over the course of his last half-dozen films, Clint Eastwood has tried his hand at dealing with such lightweight, irreverent fare as: euthanasia; dealing with the loss of a child; the reunification of South Africa under Nelson Mandela and, of course, themes of ageing, redemption, spirituality and violence. What weighty topic is left for the Great Man to explore? Is there any aspect of life yet untouched by the veteran filmmaker? Well, there's always taxes, I suppose, but Eastwood wisely decided to tackle that other great certainty in life - death - as well as grappling with its flip-side, that most uncertain of uncertainties: life after death.

This might sound like it belongs more in Woody Allen's wheelhouse than in Clint Eastwood's more earthy oeuvre, but you can rest assured (or be slightly disappointed, whatever the case may be) that there are no neurotic, death-obsessed New York Jews here – nor, for that matter, neurotic, death-obsessed cowardly Russians. What we have instead is a film that is as highly spiritual as it is fearless in its exploration of the less pleasant parts of life. A film, in fact, that is pure Eastwood. He may be best known as a particularly "grounded" director but existential angst and spirituality have never been too far from the surface of many, if not most, of Eastwood's best films.

There is a difference between subtext and super-text, though, and there was always the danger that, by bringing the spiritual element to the forefront of his storytelling, his trademark stripped-down, down-to-earth stylings would be overwhelmed by a subject that is anything but. Great a director as Clint Eastwood so obviously is, spirituality is notoriously difficult to successfully capture on screen. Just look at all those rubbish religious made-for-TV movies to see just how far wrong this sort of thing could go. It's a subject that lends itself to mawkishness, preachiness and heavy-handedness – and that's on a good day.

But Eastwood once again proves his mettle, as Hereafter is far, far better than we might have feared, even if it's not quite as good as we might have hoped. Without wanting to downplay the very solid cast (Matt Damon, in particular, once again shines under Eastwood's direction) or the very well-judged Peter Morgan script, Eastwood shows that even if he isn't the most stylistic adventurous filmmaker, he is second to no one when it comes to pure, unencumbered storytelling.

Hereafter does lose its way somewhat in its final act as it uses a few too many plot contrivances to bring the three divergent storylines together (which was never really necessary, considering how perfectly connected they already were thematically) but, for the most part, it's a masterclass in powerful human drama. Rather than getting bogged down by the parts of the story that are difficult to capture, harder to truly grasp and all but impossible to get everyone to agree on, Eastwood and Morgan keep the focus squarely on the emotional heart of the film.

Despite dealing with death and what lies beyond the mortal coil, Hereafter is a film that is mostly defined by its exploration of the interlinked emotions of longing and loneliness. The protagonists of all three segments may well be affected by death but what truly connects them all is a lack of connection in their lives and a longing, if not a desperate desire, to feel part of something more than themselves. Whether they succeed in this goal is something that you will have to discover for yourself. Either way, by focusing on this aspect of the story, Hereafter shifts from being a film that could easily have struggled to connect with an audience into something that is profoundly moving and unquestionably universal. But then, what else would you expect from a Clint Eastwood film?

Clint Eastwood moves from the early days of democracy in South Africa to the supernatural and offers a masterclass in powerful human drama.
Read more on:    clint eastwood  |  matt damon  |  review  |  movies

dude 2011/01/17 12:26 PM
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Great flick!
Ricardo Ferreira 2011/01/25 2:32 PM
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Brilliant movie....
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