Hereafter is a film that tells three distinct stories that, by chance, all collide. Matt Damon plays George, a man who can communicate with the dead, as long as he touches someone who knew someone who is dead; Cécile de France plays a news reporter named Marie who suffers a near-death experience and has to deal with the after effects of that; and Frankie McLaren plays Marcus, a young boy who recently lost his twin brother, and is looking for answers about the afterlife, all while dealing with the real world, which involves social services and a heroin addict of a mother.
George has given up being a psychic though, because he found the media attention too burdensome, the clients too aggressive, and the entire ordeal life-wrecking. He decides instead to take a factory job making $2 thousand a month. But he’s apparently happy now. He does a reading for a person who is a close client of his brother, who tells another person, but surprisingly, it doesn’t go on from there. Meanwhile, Marie is suffering from problems after she almost drowned to death in Thailand. The shot of the ocean engulfing an entire city from the trailer is where this comes in.
Also happening at this time is Marcus’ home life crashing down. His mother says she’s finally going to get help, although she needs to have Marcus go to foster parents for that to happen. Marcus is a troublemaker, possibly because he misses his brother, and this just escalates things. It doesn’t get all that bad, and overall he seems like a good kid, so I’m not sure why that’s mentioned at all, but the film emphasizes it.
There is also a budding relationship between Damon and a woman named Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), although it also doesn’t go anywhere. That’s really what happens with the entire movie: It takes us places, and then right before that area begins to get interesting, it takes us in a different direction, and forgets to give us closure to what it exposed us to prior.
This creates a problem for people who need closure for everything, because that’s not something you’ll get with Hereafter. Even the ending fails to give any sense of closure, coming out of the blue just when you expect the film to start picking up. I audibly yelled “Is that it?” after the credits started to roll, but only because I wanted more, not necessarily because I wanted closure. In hindsight, the ending worked for me, although I maintain that I still wanted more from these characters.
In films with multiple storylines, you can often expect the characters to be underdeveloped. That’s true enough here, and is part of the reason I wanted to see more of them. They’re interesting people, or so I wager, but the film doesn’t do a good enough job of bringing that onto the screen. I had to guess at some of their personality ticks and traits, and while that means I was involved, it means that Hereafter didn’t do its job well enough, especially when I find these things to be crucial in a drama.
Like I said though, I was kept involved. I cared about these people — enough to try to figure out their histories — and I wanted to see more of them. I was captivated by what was happening, even when what was happening wasn’t much at all. It takes a good film to keep you interested when unimportant and mundane things are occurring, and Hereafter kept me interested, despite being filled with these types of events.
I think part of it has to do with the human curiosity with death. We get to see director Clint Eastwood’s depiction of the other side, partially, in this film, and waiting for another opportunity to see this may be what keeps us interested. And then there’s also the hook that the film uses, the massive tsunami that opens the film. While it may all be CGI, it looks amazing, and that’s probably why it’s been promoted so heavily in the trailers. While it only actually occurs the once, it will stick in your mind for the rest of the film’s runtime.
This is true of what most of the film brings, for multiple reasons. This is a thought provoking film, one that will make you ponder your own thoughts about the afterlife. Possibly. Regardless, there will be questions that will pop into your head not from the film’s plot, but from the premise alone. It won’t let you just sit down and take in its plot, but will allow you to explore situations and ponder what they mean. While there’s not great mystery to solve, it will still challenge you intellectually.
The performances in this film are mixed. While Matt Damon and Cécile de France are both good, the child who played Marcus seriously needed acting lessons. Eastwood chose a person who had never acted before to play Marcus, and while you can get a more raw performance, you often end up getting an emotionless one. That’s the case here, and this child ended up being more of an annoyance than a help, largely due to the fact that he never shows emotion.
Hereafter isn’t an excellent film, but it kept me involved enough to want to see more of it. It opens well, and leaves on a similar note, although far less violent, and has you exit the film with more questions and thoughts than you had going in. Regardless of whether or not the plot and the characters stick with you five minutes after the film ends, there’s a good chance that you will take something deeper from this film. For that, and a solid plot of three stories, I say it’s worth a watch.