Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language.
So I am sitting there in the theater and watching Hereafter, directed by the quintessential American actor and director Clint Eastwood, and I am thinking, this is a foreign film. A third of it is in French. I mean, really, I thought “Dirty Harry” wouldn’t even set foot in Frenchieland much less allow a good chunk of his film to be in French. I thought the closest Rowdy Yates would get to France is a platter of French fries. Apparently, I err. OK, I remember Eastwood did Letters from Iwo Jima…and that was in Japanese, but it was also about war! Manly war - not a woman in Paris!
Hereafter is the kind of film people will either love or hate. It is not the type of movie I can review without getting into trouble with half of my readers. So fair warning: this movie is a conundrum.
Hereafter is three stories involving three people faced with death and struggling with the “hereafter.” At first, Hereafter seems disjointed. How are these three stories connected? Eventually they converge, not exactly gracefully, but when they do, there is no Hollywood explosion…not a dramatic flourish…just…a semi-awareness or acceptance of the “herepresent.” It is melancholic, mellow as the jazz soundtrack, and filled with contemplative and meditative nuances. Like I said: foreign.
The film starts out with this French couple: Marie LeLay (Cécile De France), a television journalist, and her “tool” of a boyfriend. They are vacationing when a Tsunami hits (very effective scenes, by the way). Marie had gone shopping and died for a few minutes right there in the street. You know: white light, fuzzy figures vaguely familiar…a feeling of weightlessness. Then she is brought back to life. They go back to France, but she is not exactly as she was.
George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a San Francisco psychic, who “sees (and talks) to dead people,” and has turned his back on peddling his “gift.” He went to work in a factory and living a monkish life. His brother, however, is most eager to exploit his brother’s talent for money. George (a)Lone(a)ga(i)n feels he can’t have a normal relationship. He prefers to listen to audio books of Charles Dickens’ novels. He doesn’t have much use for Shakespeare. Dickens is his solace. (He had me when I spied a picture of Dickens in his apartment.)
In London, Marcus (Frankie McLaren) is devastated when his twin brother Jason (George McLaren) is killed. He is thrown into foster care because his mother is a drug addict (no father is in the picture). He wants to “connect” with his beloved, dead brother.
These are the three stories that run concurrently through the movie.
Also, there is a scene in Hereafter wherein George takes a cooking class and is paired up with a rather giggly, silly but beguiling redhead named Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). She practically throws herself at him but his psychic skills get in the way of romance. However, the “tasting” scene is bizarrely sensual…or is it sexual. Foreign films are kind of ambivalent.
This movie, which runs over two hours, follows these three people searching for the meaning of…not life…but death. Some might say it is plodding and boring and maybe ridiculous but I disagree. It is almost a think-piece. The acting is solid; Frankie McLaren (Marcus) is particularly stuck in my head. The cinematography is stunning, the pacing is confidently almost arrogantly leisurely, and the emotional subtleties are quiet but effective…in my opinion. But allow me to be clear: this movie would be easy to ridicule.
No doubt, critics and film fans will disagree over Hereafter. This is a quirky art film…a movie that demands an acquired taste but well-crafted. I loved it. Others may find it totally disappointing and others will hate it.
Actually, Clint Eastwood was made a commander in the France's prestigious Legion of Honor back in 2009. Maybe that made his day and he reciprocated by giving a third of his film to the French. Qui sait?
Hereafter earns four bow ties out of five.