Film Review: Hereafter

To describe Hereafter as sentimental drivel seems a bit harsh. Nevertheless, Clint Eastwood’s latest is a film with few redeeming features.

Marie Lelay is a French journalist on holiday who has a near death experience after being caught up in a tsunami on holiday. Marcus is a London schoolboy who is deeply affected by a tragedy. George Lonegan is a San Francisco native who has the ability to communicate with the dead. These three individuals are touched by death in different ways…

The opening sequence of Hereafter works well to absorb viewers instantly. But everything that follows is a let down. The film quickly loses the audience’s interest with stories that just aren’t that compelling, as well as poor pacing.

Hereafter focuses on three narrative strands, which inevitably entwine before the end of the film. None of these stories are particularly illuminating unfortunately. Each of the stories move at sluggish speeds, and offer little to grab the imagination.

It is natural that a film about death would want to deal with the topic sensitively. In some respects Hereafter is too delicate with the subject matter. Rather than a film that asks real questions about the nature of mortality and the possibilities of an afterlife, Hereafter plumps for a sentimental exploration of those with connections to death. Eastwood’s film is not concerned with grief so much; it focuses on three characters that have links to the afterlife. There is little time expended on what this afterlife is, the film simply posits that there is one and it is accessible to some people.

The direction reeks of laziness. Clint Eastwood fails to inject any sense of momentum to events; the film plods along aimlessly at times. Hereafter seems engineered to provoke an emotional response. Yet because this intention is so transparent, viewers are less likely to succumb to the sentimentalism.

Performances are adequate overall in Hereafter. Matt Damon is solid as George Lonegan; giving a decent, if not inspired performance. Cécile De France is quietly confident as Marie Lelay, but Frankie and George McLaren are stiff as twins Marcus and Jason. Bryce Dallas Howard adds a bit of life as Melanie. None of the characters are particularly enthralling in Eastwood’s film. Writer Peter Morgan fails to give the characters any real depth, which makes it difficult to care about the outcome.

Hereafter is at best misguidedly introspective. At worst, the film borders on tedium.