Hereafter (2011)

Hereafter is incredibly dull. It has some solid ideas but it constructed so poorly it becomes a frustrating, meandering plod towards a disappointingly soft ending. There are decent moments and some reasonable acting, but it’s simply too long and plotless to bother bumbling through to the conclusion. Avoid.

Client Eastwood is old; this we know for certain. In fact, he’s 80 years old. It seems that many filmic legends are recently slipping from this mortal coil at an alarming rate, so Mister Eastwood is bound to be questioning his own time left on this messed-up, spinning orb of rock. Not content with sitting down in his slippers and being force-fed baby food, Eastwood has knocked out an impressive six films in four years and Hereafter is his latest.

Perhaps it’s because he is so close to falling six foot into worm-land that he’s chosen to direct his first film focused entirely on the afterlife. The story traces the journeys of three individuals as they have their own experiences with “the other side”. It is an interesting idea but tragically doesn’t reach its potential… in any way.

George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a retired American psychic who is struggling to find someone to love and is constantly exploited by his brother (Jay Mohr). Marie Lelay (Cecile Fe France) is a French journalist who becomes obsessed with writing a book on the afterlife after experiencing the ‘’hereafter’’ during a near-death experience during a Tsunami. Marcus (Frankie / George McLaren) is a British schoolboy who is troubled by the loss of his twin brother Jason (Frankie / George McLaren) and is seeking answers about his death.

These vignettes are reasonably interesting but never truly compel. We start with an ambitious Tsunami that almost kills Marie Lelay; a beginning which is brutal and exciting but sadly hampered by some eye-wincingly poor special effects. This, however, is all the excitement we get in Hereafter.

Marie’s journey takes her back to France, where she’s given gardening leave to write a political book but instead ends up focusing on the “hidden truth” behind the afterlife. Having apparently founds facts to back up her underwater death-visions; she is slowly shunned by her colleagues as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and apparent enlightenment…

Meanwhile in America ex-psychic George is lost and alone in life, attending cookery classes to find love. His “gift / curse”, however, scares away any potential companions and once he’s “let go” from his factory job he finds himself considering moving back to the profession that caused him so much pain in the past.

In London, young Marcus is put into government care after his brother Jason is killed and his mother enters rehab. He seeks answers to his brother’s death and visits every fortune teller and psychic England’s capital has to offer, finding nothing but more questions and no resolution.

These journeys are in no way connected – at all – and play out as three short stories jammed together until the last ten minutes. Whereas the build-up of other intertwining story films normally results in exciting and important impacts – see Magnolia or Crash as examples of when it works – the result in Hereafter is soft and expected. It is a disappointing ending to a slow and yawning film.

Acting wise, Damon is his usual competent self but never excels, spending most of the movie sitting alone as his dinner table or pensively staring out of windows. Cecile De France sails through the movie but her character is so naïve and ignorant it becomes difficult to relate to her, whilst real-life twins Frankie / George McLaren are truly appalling in places, chosen presumably because of the twin-factor rather than any remote ability to act.

There is nothing incredibly, horrifically wrong with Hereafter; it merely lumbers methodically on and on and on. Eastwood’s direction is competent and Peter Morgan’s script is spark-less but acceptable, yet the story and storylines are so slow and meandering that the film struggles to hold anyone’s attention.

There is also no ambiguity in Hereafter; Matt Damon can definitely see ghosts of the dead, Cecile De France definitely saw the afterlife when she died for a bit and some London kid is definitely haunted by his dead twin. It never questions it, merely forcing us to watch them discovering themselves and “the truth” in a slightly trite and overwhelming dull fashion.

There is little reason to see Hereafter. As three separate stories this may have worked as a TV series, but as a feature film it simply is too long and too unchallenging. It is a shame that this comes from a director who has provided some compelling dramas over the past decade and we can only hope 2012’s J Edgar is a sterling return to form.

With Hereafter, Client Eastwood proves he is much closer to death than most of us by rolling out a movie that is as thrilling as a retirement home bedpan. Unless you have a lot of spare time and want a very long snooze, Hereafter is one to avoid.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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