It sometimes frustrates me when it takes so long to get to films that I knew I might be interested in. Seeing Hereafter proved to be more frustrating than usual, mainly thanks to a first act that reminded me of a major recent release with one major difference. Hereafter did everything just a bit better. It's not a great movie, by any means, but there are moments that almost reach that level and that opening sequence, featuring a devastating tsunami, is one of them. The fact that it decided to go down a fictional path in order to best tell its story is the main reason for me preferring it to The Impossible, but it's not the only one.
I'd better clarify just now that the two films then go on wildly different trajectories. I simply couldn't help commenting on the similarities during the powerful first half hour of the movie because, well, that's what will spring to mind for many viewers nowadays. Now I'd better move on to the rest of the film.
Matt Damon plays a psychic, but he's a real psychic. It's not a gift that he has, it's a curse, and he's chosen to turn his back on it all. He doesn't want the money or any fame, he just wants to feel normal. His brother (Jay Mohr) keeps trying to convince him that he should be helping people, and making plenty of money, but "a life that's all about death is no life at all."
Cecile De France plays Marie Lelay, a journalist who finds herself caught up in that aforementioned tsunami and then, understandably, deeply affected afterwards.
George and Frankie McLaren play twin brothers who muddle through life together as their heroin addicted mother often leaves them to their own devices. When one twin is suddenly taken away in a fatal accident it all becomes a bit too much for the one who is left, a young man seeking answers and maybe just another chance to communicate with his brother.
These three people have all been touched by death in some way, but perhaps something good can come out of it.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, from a script by Peter Morgan, Hereafter is a strange mix of the jaded and the optimistic helped by a solid cast. It takes ideas of spirituality and plays them out in a completely straightforward, if sometimes slightly schmaltzy, manner.
I've been a big fan of Matt Damon for a number of years now and, whatever you think of the whole film, he's superb here as someone cursed with what some see as a gift. The scenes with him and Bryce Dallas Howard, as a woman he meets and wants to spend some quality time with, may be obvious and even a bit heavy-handed, but they're also quite affecting. Cecile De France has the least interesting journey in the movie, but she does fine in her role. George and Frankie McLaren are stand outs and the movie actually peaks during the sequence in which the boy visits a number of people who claim they can contact the dead and watches blankly as they go through different nonsensical procedures to convince him that they're communicating with "the other side".
Technically proficient, with a couple of absolutely superb set-pieces (one near the beginning and one at just about the hour mark), the biggest problem with Hereafter is the way in which Eastwood takes something that needs a more delicate touch and proceeds to make everything far too obvious and emotionally moving. It DID move me, but I'm a sucker when it comes to that kind of easy manipulation so all I can really do is warn others about it as it's already too late for me.
There are too many negatives for Hereafter to be a great film, not least of which is the way in which the central subject matter is treated (a way that will put many off), but it has some great moments within it. It's just a shame that they're placed in between scenes of much lower quality.