Clint Eastwood doesn’t waste any time grabbing the audience’s attention. In the opening sequence of “Hereafter,” the viewer is swept into a tsunami. Death and destruction in its wake, we are introduced to the first character of the film, Marie LeLay (Cecile de France), a television anchor from France on vacation with her boyfriend. While shopping for gifts, the tsunami strikes, dragging Marie underwater and nearly killing her. Near death, Marie experiences the hereafter. Consumed by a white light, she experiences weightlessness and envisions ghostly silhouettes, which represent those who have passed on.
This is a powerful sequence in what is unfamiliar territory for Eastwood, who isn’t a special effects director. He hasn’t helmed films about the unknown either. However, being that the legendary actor and director celebrated his 80th birthday this year, perhaps this film was cathartic.
The second story moves to San Francisco where a simple man with a great gift resides. George Lonegan (Matt Damon) doesn’t see his ability to connect with the dead as a gift, however. To him, it is an unwanted burden. But at the prodding of his brother Billy (Jay Mohr), George goes back on his word and gives a reading to one of Billy’s associates. Thankfully, Eastwood doesn’t go the gimmick route here. No ghosts appear out of nowhere and angelic music doesn’t take over the scene, therefore the viewer is kept within the fantastical moment.
Lastly, in London, twin boys Jason and Marcus (George and Frankie McLaren) fight to remain in their home. Their mother is a junkie. High on heroin and drunk on whatever liquor is available in the residence, she is visited infrequently by child protective services. The brothers not only know the drill, they have it down and with cunning are able to ward off foster care placement by covering up for their unfit mother. Unfortunately, enabling the mother leads to a devastating loss, which leaves one unable to move on.
All three gripping narratives, connected by death, are set at the perfect pace. By not rushing, Eastwood gives each story the time it deserves to develop, engrossing the audience entirely. Additionally, Eastwood’s somber directing style works well with Peter Morgan’s contemplative screenplay.
The stand out story amongst the three? The twins. The least interesting, surprisingly, is the psychic. Not to say Matt Damon didn’t give a strong performance, he did. It’s just that his story didn’t resonate as much as the brothers or the French journalist.
My only grievances were with Eastwood’s score, which he composed himself, and the film’s flat ending. I didn’t think the piano flowed with the film. At times, it was jarring and the film’s finish felt contrived and a bit of a letdown. But it didn’t ruin my overall positive experience of the film.
As there isn’t enough reasonable discussion on the topic of life after death, “Hereafter” is definitely worth checking out. It opens nationwide Oct. 22.
. . .
Follow Sherice Antoinette on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ShericesPieces.