Thursday, October 21, 2010
What is amazing about Hereafter is that in 129 minutes, nothing happens. Three separate storylines, location shooting in London, Paris and San Francisco, and nothing. For a movie that aspires to explore what happens after we die, all it really explores is what happens when you focus on pathetically boring people with nothing to do.
You would think with Clint Eastwood directing a script by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) there’d be some original, bold things to say about life and mortality, but no. Not even close. What we do get are three disparate storylines that barely connect. George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (Cécile de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (George McLaren and Frankie McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers.
The biggest problem with Morgan’s script isn’t that the characters don’t physically intersect more, it’s that thematically the stories don’t connect. The whole point of exploring mortality issues from three different perspectives is to allow the actions in one storyline to reflect and/or enhance the other storylines. But that never happens here – it’s as if each character is in his/her own movie that has nothing to do with the others until the very end, and by then it is too late.
If each individual journey were interesting this might be forgivable, but really only George’s plotline is compelling. He views his ability to communicate with the dead as a curse, which is fascinating, especially with his avaricious brother (Jay Mohr) trying to exploit his gift for profit. When George meets Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) at a cooking class and they strike up a mutual flirtation, he knows his ability is both the most interesting thing about him and the one surefire way to ruin any future they may have.
More focus on George would have been welcome, especially since so little is offered with Marie and Marcus. Eastwood uses catastrophic events to try to drive home some emotion, and both the Indonesian tsunami that Marie survives and the London subway bombing that Marcus avoids are nicely done. But other than that, the characters never approach being interesting.
That Hereafter will go down as the most boring and directionless film of 2010 goes without saying. That it could’ve been something great may be an overstatement, but the truth is it’s a big tease: It never really delves into what happens in the afterlife – it is only about people who are curious about what happens after we die. And when they don’t find answers, we are all left scratching our heads.