Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Film Review: Hereafter

What happens after we die? If there's anyone in Hollywood qualified to answer that question it'd be resident soul-searcher, Matt Damon. On a mini-spiritual fathom of late it seems (see The Adjustment Bureau), Damon appears to have gone all Bourne in his search for answers to life's big questions. Whether Hereafter sheds any light at the end of the tunnel however is another matter.

French journalist Marie LeLay (De France) has a near death experience at the hands of a tsunami while on holiday. Having caught a glimpse of the 'other side', she drops her fledgling career in a quest to find out more. In London, Marcus (McLaren) grieves for his twin-brother, Jason (McLaren), and seeks a way to maintain their connection. Meanwhile, George Lonegan (Damon) lives out a lonely existence, unable to share physical contact with others without invoking his genuine 'gift' to talk to the departed.

Make no mistake, Clint Eastwood's exploration of the afterlife (oh the irony) in Hereafter misfires on many accounts. The plucked-off-the-street East London twins can't act for shit, it follows that now overused structure of multiple story-lines spanning international borders and it is probably not as deep as it would like to think it is. Some might even accuse it of being mawkish, even criticising Hereafter on the basis of bad science and poorly executed paranormal themes. However this would be to miss the point entirely. Eastwood hasn't created a film that thrives on sensational supernatural events. Rather it is supposed to be a tender and melancholy exploration of life and death.

Hereafter has less to do with the idea of an eternal existence after we die than it does with how the living cope after the life of someone else has passed. In fact it avoids any commitment to the idea of some pearly white gate on a cloud, only ever alluding to the idea of consciousness after death. If anything Hereafter induces a pensive rumination buoyed by a measured narrative which revokes the need for a hurtling speed toward a conclusion. It encourages you to be contemplative.

Hereafter isn't a tale of the paranormal or what happens after death, but about the here and now. It is an open-ended enquiry to a question that may never be answered from the perspective of three individuals. Yes it is variable in places, but overall it is an absorbing and inscrutable inquisition of a phenomenon we may never fully understand.