A blog about movies and filmmaking.

The Unanswerable Question “What Comes Next?” | HEREAFTER

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Of course that question – “what comes next?” – has many layers, and for one, there actually is an answer. Next comes the J. Edgar Hoover movie for Clint Eastwood. A man who has made a movie every year for the past who knows how many years. And a couple times he made two, which makes up for any unevenness in the math. His newest though is a story that really packs everything you could ask for all in one neat package (with the seemingly superimposed face of Matt Damon from GOOD WILL HUNTING on the poster), called HEREAFTER.

Written by Peter Morgan, a man who has been on a roll of his own with movies like FROST/NIXON, THE QUEEN and THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, it’s the story of three people; all who have touched death in one way or another. The movie spans the globe, includes bits of action and tragedy, but stays small enough to focus mainly on the characters. And it’s magnificent in how it does so.

The characters in the movie are lead of course by Damon, as George Lonegan, a man whose life has been stolen by the fact that he miraculously – or cursed with as he says – is able to speak with the dead. When his portion of the movie begins, we meet him begrudgingly forced into doing a “reading” for a client of his brother’s (played by Jay Mohr). We see how his skill works, and that’s he’s authenticate and sympathetic for the people on both sides of the divide. But, he doesn’t want that life anymore, so that’s why he works at a sugar factory and listens to Charles Dickens audiobooks. And takes night classes for cooking. Which are some of the funnest scenes, thanks to the beautiful, flirtation by Bryce Dallas Howard; and the amazing chef played by Steve Schirripa (THE SOPRANOS, one of my favorite characters from the show, actually.).

But, the character we actually meet at the beginning of the movie is Marie Lelay, played by Cecile De France (HIGH TENSION). She’s a personality in Paris, a newscaster and model; but when we meet her she’s in a tropical hotel with her boyfriend and producer (same person, by the way, and played by Thierry Neuvic from TELL NO ONE.). She goes out to buy his kids some souvenirs and well, she gets drowned in a tsunami, that overtakes the island. During her time underwater, she passes into another land – to the hereafter, you might say – and when she wakes up; she’s become obsessed with it. She wonders why people don’t talk about what happens after we die, and sets out to write a book about it.

Finally, the third character is Marcus, played by Frankie and/or George McLaren – they’re twins, and in the movie, they also play twins, the other of which is named Jason. The young boys live in London and are shown doing their homework; preparing their dinner; and readying themselves for bed all before their mother comes home from a day out, doing drugs and who knows what else. In the morning they’re visited by two social workers who have gleamed onto the fact that the boys are covering for their unfit mother and are ready to take them away. After pulling a quick one, scooting the mum out the back with a bag of groceries so she can come back in the front like she’s fresh from the store; the mother sends Jason on a run to a pharmacy, to pick up some medicine to help her kick the drugs. Naturally, as the story requires, young Jason winds up in a fatal collision with a speeding delivery truck.

The movie slowly and steadily gives us looks into these characters lives, post tragedy. The romance – or is it an affair, we’re never sure – of Marie and her producer; Marcus, as he’s taken from his mom – so she can enter a rehab facility – to live with foster parents. And George, as he’s pushed in more ways than one to become a psychic for hire, again. With a website and book deals and people showing up at his door, looking for solace. We get to know them, and see how the other-side clearly looms over and affects them. Marie wants to share and discuss what she’s been through, but instead is made into a pariah, who will lose everything because people that seriously want to discuss the afterlife are obviously crazy. Marcus misses his slightly older brother and is lost without someone to guide him. George just wants to live his own life.

I feel like I might have done myself a disservice earlier this week, by reading an excellent blog post by Roger Ebert – which was also inspired by this very movie, and is a beautifully written treatise on what the hereafter might be and how we should all focus more on life. And almost fortuitously, this movie is coming out the same weekend as another story of being haunted – granted this movie has a lot less scares and is bound to bring in completely different audiences. But, I would suggest people to see both. HEREAFTER is a beautiful response or antidote, perhaps, on the same affect of the supernatural that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 has. And they’re both powerfully effective. Two sides of the same coin, I guess.

Overall, HEREAFTER left me reeling. Not necessarily questioning my existence or what comes after we’re dead, but about my life now. It made me wish I had someone I could go to the movies with or cook dinner for and why the hell I’m alone. (All of which faded quickly, as I came back to reality.) But, that’s part of the magic of movies. After seeing Paranormal Activity, I couldn’t sleep for most of the night – yes, because I was afraid of every noise and shadow; and with Hereafter, I spent most of the night contemplating life and all the fears and joys that come with that. Both leave you thinking about our vulnerabilities, both in the physical and the metaphysical worlds.

HEREAFTER is a top-notch movie, probably one of my favorite of Eastwood’s – possibly right under UNFORGIVEN and right above or next to GRAN TORINO (which this movie shares a couple of thematic ideas) – and of the year. The cast is all amazing, the special effects work for what they are – disturbing and benevolent – and there’s even one moment that will make the entire theater jump, possibly higher than an equivalent moment in the other ghost movie I’ve spoken of too much.

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