For a film that is alternately emotional and cerebral, Hereafter grabs your attention with a scene worthy of a high-end disaster movie: an incredible depiction of a Tsunami. Knowing that it’s coming, as many people will from the previews and advertisements, won’t lessen the impact of this tour de force, which is frighteningly believable in every detail.The balance of the film divides itself among three separate stories: the aftermath of that disaster for a French TV journalist and host (Cecile de France) who dies briefly and is brought back to life, a young boy whose twin is killed in an accident, leaving his brother desperately lonely, and an ordinary fellow in San Francisco (played by Matt Damon) who—
—no longer wants to use his gift of clairvoyance to speak with the dead because he regards it as a curse.
The episodic screenplay marks a departure for writer Peter Morgan, whose work up to now has focused on reality based drama (Frost/Nixon, The Queen, et al). It’s thoughtful and obviously sincere, which is why I was absorbed at every turn, even though I wasn’t sure where it was heading. Director Clint Eastwood tells the story with the sure-handedness we’ve come to expect.
My problem with Hereafter is the ending. The characters all find some degree of resolution or catharsis, but I never felt it myself. I can’t go into detail without revealing plot elements I shouldn’t, so I’ll have to leave it at that. But I also can’t dismiss the film; I just wish I had come away with something more. The performances are too good, the locations too unusual, and the question of hereafter too inherently interesting for me to write off the picture because it lacks the kind of finale the material demands. If you’re willing to take a journey that falls short of reaching its destination, I’d say Hereafter is still worth seeing.