Published Oct 14, 2010Clint Eastwood's Hereafter begins quite literally with a splash, following the story of Frenchwoman surviving the 2004 tsunami in South East Asia. We later learn that this woman, a famous television journalist from Paris, nearly died. Elsewhere, a London schoolboy deals with the death of his closest family member. In San Francisco, a factory worker tries to leave his former life as a psychic behind him.
Death hangs above these three characters like a persistent rain cloud. The French journalist, Marie Lelay (Cecile de France), refusing to play the victim, recuperates by throwing herself into research about the hereafter. In San Francisco, George Lonergan (Matt Damon), indulges his interest of Italian cooking and Charles Dickens. While in London, Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren) is heartbreakingly put into foster care. Any viewer worth their salt knows that their stories are not just linked by an idea and that the lives of these there will eventually intersect. The question is: do we care?
Screenwriter Peter Morgan succeeds, in as far as writing George and Marcus's lives as shells of their former selves. Unfortunately, the tone of Marie's segment is so jarring it throws off the otherwise quiet feel of this movie. Eastwood's depiction of the tsunami is surely awesome, but he views this thread more like a Michael Bay blockbuster rather than his own examination of human grief. There are awe-inspiring special effects, as well as gratuitous shots of De France. Witness: Marie walking on the beach, in a bubble bath and in her underwear. De France is a beautiful and talented actress, but we forget the latter because of the way Eastwood shoots her.
Hereafter ultimately suffers from an identity crisis, but it is difficult to hate it because of the many fine performances - the McLaren twins are excellent, as is De France. Watch out for devastating turns by Bryce Dallas Howard, as George's potential girlfriend, and Lyndsey Marshall, as a drug addicted single mother. It is Damon, however, with his greying hair and quiet demeanour, who anchors this film, even though his effortless grace cannot save this tonally uneven work from dissolving into a pool of mawkish mediocrity.
There will undoubtedly be puns by the press about this film's afterlife, but I'll wager that its fate will be much worse: a forgotten title in Eastwood's otherwise illustrious career. Pity. (Warner)