In San Francisco, George Lonegan (Matt Damon, the Bourne trilogy) is a psychic who can converse with the dead but he considers his gift a curse. In London, Marcus is lost without his twin brother Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), a team who kept themselves and their drug addicted single mom out of the social services system. Marie LeLay (Cécile De France, "High Tension," "Mesrine: Killer Instinct") is a famous Parisian television host who died and came back to life during the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. Their lives will all intersect when Marie writes a book about her experience that she calls "Hereafter."
Octogenarian director Clint Eastwood has had an incredible streak of filmmaking since 2003's "Mystic River." Even when he's not in top form, such as with 2006's "Flags of Our Fathers" or 2008's "Changeling," he's come back the same year with superior films ("Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Gran Torino"). But with "Hereafter" he's shot outside of the dartboard. After a spectacular opening sequence in which we experience the 2004 tsunami from Marie's point of view, "Hereafter" is DOA. Screenwriter Peter Morgan, best known for his British biopics like "The Queen" and "The Damned United," explores non-theological spirituality through three eventually intertwined stories which rely too much on impulsive and illogical behavior.
After Marie comes back from her visions of the dead gathered equidistantly in a white void, she finds her producer/lover Didier (Thierry Neuvic, "Code Unknown," "Tell No One") searching for her on the beach. Back home, though, she has trouble focusing on her work. Didier convinces her to take some time off to write the book she's been talking about. But Marie's proposed book on Mitterand turns into a study on the afterlife based on the work of Swiss Dr. Rousseau (Marthe Keller, "Bobby Deerfield," "Time of the Wolf"), whose website is the first she finds during a Google Search.
George's opportunistic older brother Billy (Jay Mohr, "Jerry Maguire," TV's 'Gary Unmarried') can't accept his decision to cease psychic readings and we're introduced when Billy brings Christos (Richard Kind, "A Serious Man," TV's 'Spin City'), a business associate, to his brother. George's ability is the real deal and Damon plays the psychic in an effective quiet, low key manner. But George's story is sent off the rails when he takes an Italian cooking class (amusingly taught by "The Sopranos'" Steven Schirripa) and is partnered with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard, "Lady in the Water," "Twilight: Eclipse"), a San Francisco newcomer who sets her cap so obviously and immediately for George it's almost comedic. The scene in which she learns George's secret is completely bungled. She's crazy about him but ignores his advice that a reading will abolish the possibility of having a normal relationship. He gives in to her curiosity way too quickly. She's too traumatized by what she learns which really shouldn't be that big of a surprise to her. Dallas Howard is just plain weird in the role, more an alien than real live girl, although a blindfold taste testing she and Damon do at class does have a slight erotic charge.
The twins-of-heroine-addicted-mom storyline is the least successful of the three, as the mom, Jackie (Lyndsey Marshal, "Rome's" Cleopatra), is the most interesting character and has the least screen time. When Jason goes to fill his mother's withdrawal prescription full of hope, he maintains cell phone contact with twelve minutes younger Marcus at home. That phone grabs the attention of four teenage toughs and Jason runs out into the street to get away and is hit by a car and killed. Mom can't cope and Marcus is brought to foster parents (Niamh Cusack, "Five Minutes of Heaven" and George Costigan, "Calendar Girls"). Soon Marcus, like Marie, is Googling, but I doubt any twelve year-old would be looking up words of wisdom from Indian mystics on Youtube. Then, like Marie, he follows the first hit he brings up the web, going from one charlatan to another in what must be the longest single evening in London's history. After worrying his wards by taking 200 pounds and disappearing on that junket, when he asks to wander on his own at the expansive London Book Fair, of course, in least with Morgan's logic, they say yes. The way these three finally get together is too cutesy by half.
Eastwood has pondered both mortality and spirituality before and far more successfully. "Gran Torino" featured both themes as did "Million Dollar Baby." Both featured moral conundrums and faith under stress. "Hereafter" is just a weak panacea, a vague reassurance that there is life after death regardless of faith or the life that was lived and that those who leave before us watch over us (articulated in a subway scene with absolutely no suspense or surprise).
With the exception of that amazing opener, the overall look of the film is bleak, rainy and dark. Once again, Eastwood scores his own film, but his plaintive piano plinking is all wrong during a dinner scene when Marie realizes Didier has replaced her and indistinguishable from earlier films.
Robin did not see this film.
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