Alphabet Cinema: “H” is for “Hereafter”

Did you ever buy a really cheap rental copy of a movie from a dying Blockbuster before one of its branches went caput? Yep, I did that quite a lot; it was oddly satisfying. Problem is, I haven’t finished watching them all yet . . . so let’s begin with:

Hereafter (2010). From the DVD cover, looks like a paranormal action tale with Matt Damon. Uh, nope. Remove one of those adjectives. Despite Damon’s face, Hereafter boasts very little running and jumping (after the first twenty minutes or so). In fact, it isn’t all about Damon’s character either, even though his paranormal ability does play as a fulcrum to the plot. The story is split into three sections of a braid.

WARNING: I’m basically summarizing the plot ahead!

A life that’s all about death is no life at all.

Cecile De France (High Tension, Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct) plays Marie Lelay, a French journalist who nearly drowns when caught in the 2004 tsunami waves (cue flashbacks of The Impossible here!). A bystander CPR’s her into breathing again, but even when back in Europe, Marie continues to experience flashbacks of the afterlife, a white plain full of silhouettes and disorientating mist. Occupied with such thoughts, Marie approaches scientists and hospice specialists for other people who have seen what she has.

To write or not to write?

Meanwhile, she meets only skepticism in her personal and professional lives. Rather than be silenced, she uses that rebuff to write a book tackling what most academics consider hokum.

Opposite her is impoverished British boy Marcus (co-played by George and Frankie McLaren) whose difficult life aiding an alcoholic mother is made lonelier with the death of his twin brother Jason. Marcus’ mother sinks into depression and give him up to foster parents while she enters rehab. Bereft, Marcus runs off to any proposed psychic or medium he can find on the internet at school. Even to this child’s eyes, the people he meets exude “fake,” edging into the realm of death with fancy words and bizarre “sciences” and “energies.”

“You’re just a lying piece of codfish, aren’t you?” he seemed to say.

Some of them are so vague, Marcus leaves befuddled as well as disappointed.

Between Marie and Marcus is kind-hearted George Lonegan (Matt Damon). George has a gift, and it is apparently quite real. He can pass on messages from the deceased, those walking figures in the white plane. There is no trance, no elaborate guesses, and no money-making–just a simple, brief touch of hands.

I’d rather be Jason Bourne, man.

George’s brother wants him to return to his lucrative and renown work as a medium, but George yearns for normality. He may have had traumatic encephalomyelitis as a child and “died” during the surgery for a bit, which sparked his ability, but George thinks it a curse.

Sometimes, I mean you know, knowing everything about someone, it seems nice, but really, maybe it’s better to hold stuff back.

A series of unlucky events leads George to flee his family’s attempt to restart his psychic career. He arrives in London, intent on exploring the home of his favorite author, Charles Dickens. After a tour of the Dickens old home, George finds himself at a book expo. Coincidentally, Marie is there as well, autographing first editions. And look, so is Marcus, but as a bystander, of course. Marcus recognizes George. Geroge brushes hands with Marie.

Aaaand, the movie’s conclusion and a measure of peace follow accordingly.

Hereafter is overall an unexpected film from director Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino), not for the thoughtfulness, but for the pacing. The movie moves rather slowly after the opening tragedies. Its 129 minutes are suffused with soft piano and non-threatening environs.

Eastwood focuses more on the curiosity, the yen of those seeking answers of the afterlife rather than the fear. He showed how their questions need a resolution to move on. Once George acquiesced in helping Marcus talk to Jason, Marcus was able to live for himself, not for the memory of his dead brother. The importance part is the living. The hereafter will always come, well, after.

Rating: Interesting and thankfully not at all scary. Nearly too “feel good” for me, actually. C-

ASV Villainy Rating: Like Marie’s story demonstrated, not enough people take talking to the dead seriously so George wouldn’t do much as a villain. However, if done surreptitiously, as a spy or politician, he’d know people’s past, secrets, emotions and be able to manipulate them. The idea has potential, I guess, as long as the dead don’t mind. M – Megalomaniac

NEXT UP: An Idiot Abroad

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