When suffering the loss of a loved one, many people search for a way to communicate with the dead. Hereafter follows three individuals -- a reluctant American psychic, a French journalist, and a young boy in London -- who are dealing with issues relating to death and mortality. Sensitively directed by Clint Eastwood from a poignant screenplay by Peter Morgan, this overlong but fascinating drama contains moments of exceptional beauty as well as scenes of intense emotional anguish. The way this unusual film finally establishes a connection among its three widely-separated main characters emerges as one of the most satisfying endings of any movie I’ve seen so far this year.
Matt Damon (Green Zone) portrays George Lonegan, a man trying to evade his psychic gift, one he calls a “curse” instead. After making a good living giving “readings” to grief-stricken people, George realizes he can’t live a normal life if he continues his psychic activities. So he avoids touching people, decides to learn how to be a chef, and relaxes by listening to the works of Charles Dickens on tape. It’s very difficult for George, especially with his ambitious brother (Jay Mohr) continually pressuring him to do readings. Because Damon projects George’s sadness and loneliness so well, I felt tears on my cheeks a couple of times, which rarely happens to me while watching a movie.
The beautiful and famous French journalist, Marie LeLay, is played by Cėcile de France (Around the World in 80 Days). Marie experiences a near-death experience after being injured during a Tsunami disaster. Before being brought back to consciousness (life?), she felt weightless and saw fuzzy visions of human figures standing around her. But when Maria starts to write a book about this, her professional career -- and her love life -- begins to unravel. Endowing her character with a combination of wistfulness and determination, de France comes across as an actress of great significance here. She looks fantastic, but her most important talent is the ability to draw us into whatever situation she faces.
Perhaps the saddest character of all in Hereafter is pre-teen Marcus. Twins Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) have been inseparable since birth. When Jason dies, Marcus visits a variety of psychics – who obviously lack George’s “gift.” How Marcus and George find each other is one of the film’s highlights, so I don’t want to spoil things for you regarding this part of the film by saying anything more about it.
Another highlight involves the movie’s splendid cinematography (by Tom Stern) and its astounding visual effects in the Tsunami sequence – disturbing images, of course, but presented in a way that helps us see the horror of such a catastrophe.
Although Hereafter rates as a movie to be admired, I think it could have been even better if the “cooking lesson” scenes had been deleted. That part of the film seemed too drawn out and unnecessary to me. But that's a minor complaint about such an impressive offering.
Kudos to Eastwood (Invictus) for taking on another difficult theme and doing it so well. He even composed the film’s haunting original music. At the age of 80, this veteran filmmaker has not lost his touch. Happily, he still makes connections with moviegoers like me.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated PG-13” for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and brief strong language.)
For more information about Hereafter, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.