tue 20/03/2018

Hereafter | reviews, news & interviews



Matt Damon outshines director Clint Eastwood in afterlife drama

Matt Damon swots up on the afterlife for his role as the clairvoyant, George Lonegan

The depiction of a tsunami roaring up the beach and surging down the main street of an Indonesian seaside resort makes an enthralling opening to Clint Eastwood's latest creation. It's a terrifyingly visceral sequence that grabs you by the throat and forces you to confront the polarities of a comfortable life interrupted by sudden death.

The scene introduces the first of Hereafter's multiple protagonists, French television journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France), caught in the disaster as she holidays with her boyfriend and TV producer Didier (Thierry Neuvic). Knocked unconscious in the maelstrom and apparently drowned, Marie belatedly recovers. But her lingering visions of an afterlife, all shadowy figures lit by a sepulchral glow, leave her so shaken and disturbed that she finds she can't continue with her previous life among the chic denizens of the Parisian media set.

However, you can shelve any expectations that you're in for a roller coaster of spectral special effects, because after its 12-bore intro the movie throttles back to a reflective and at times soporific tempo, as Eastwood pits Marie's search for answers to insoluble questions against the parallel journeys of his other characters. Jason and Marcus are adolescent twins from South London (played interchangeably by real-life twins George and Frankie McLaren), doing their best to stay under the same roof as their junkie mother under the beady eye of suspicious social workers. When Jason is run over by a white van, Marcus is left desolate and isolated, unable to cope with his loss.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a former celebrity psychic who seemingly possesses a genuine gift for contacting the dead. However, carrying the weight of his customers' grief and misery has become too much ("A life that's all about death is no life at all," as he puts it), so he's trying to fashion a more conventional existence in the here and now. This is much to the dismay of his brother Billy (Jay Mohr), a hustling entrepreneur who sees big profits in George's psychic skills.

Hereafter_Clint__Marie_smallIn collaboration with screenwriter Peter Morgan, Eastwood (pictured right with Cécile de France) has managed to articulate some thought-provoking ideas about grief and the sheer incomprehensibility of dying. Matt Damon is developing into one of the most accomplished screen actors of the last couple of decades, and the way he conveys George's sadness and resignation at the strange burden he's forced to carry is skilfully sustained and quietly moving. Marie's trajectory from glossy media celebrity to slightly pitiable weirdo with an occult obsession is handled with wry sympathy, not least in the way she's promptly replaced as the poster girl for BlackBerry phones by her photogenic TV stand-in (who also supplants her in Didier's bed). A brief appearance by Bryce Dallas Howard as Melanie, who George meets at an Italian cookery class run by the opera-loving Carlo (Steven R Schirripa, alias Bobby Bacala from The Sopranos), is used to hammer home the chaos his clairvoyancy can wreak with personal relationships.

But Hereafter lacks the sprinkling of magic dust which might have successfully blended its disparate characters and plotlines. One solution might have been to drop the Jason and Marcus theme and extract more from the complementary George and Marie characters. As it is, Eastwood has found himself compelled to fabricate an absurd dénouement in which a cascade of coincidences manipulates everybody towards a climax which even Richard Curtis might have balked at. This does permit him to include a richly comic scene in which Derek Jacobi appears as himself at a book signing, the only snag being that it seems to have been cut in from an entirely different movie. Boil it all down, and Hereafter gives you only about 60 per cent pure Essence of Eastwood.

Watch the trailer for Hereafter

Eastwood manipulates his characters towards an absurd denouement which even Richard Curtis might have balked at

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'Hereafter' long after Eastwood is no longer with us will start to be regarded as one of his greatest films. Forget the odd shot of the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge to set the scene, his essay on the inability to come to terms with a gift or grief or what fate might have in store for us is handled with consummate skill for those with the intelligence to undertand that. Many Eastwood films that were initially derided many now consider amongst American cinema's greatest ... such as 'Bronco Billy' and 'A Perfect World'. Although I naturally enjoyed 'Invictus' that I wasn't waiting to see again 'Hereafter' I am. Don't believe what you read elsewhere Eastwood gets London right (apart from Liverpool Street becoming Charing Cross) and unlike one reviewer suggested there wasn't - there actually is a Pizza Express in Leadenhall Market! The acting of the twins is fine and very much in the understated style of the boy in 'A Perfect World' and like Eastwood's himself. Subtitled films are never going to work in America or Britain with audiences and some reviewers brought up on 'Star Wars', 'Avatar' or 'Shrek 1 to 72'. I am not a great friend of France but am warming to them where 'Hereafter' has topped the box office for two weeks! (The only real error was a reference to Dickens' EdWARD Drood!)

>>Hereafter' long after Eastwood is no longer with us will start to be regarded as one of his greatest films. I totally agree & I think Eastwood's film - as Adam Sweeting's dismally uninsightful review indicates - has been received with utter confusion by the critics. This is an arthouse movie with little interest in plot (which is why bashing the film for the way it brings its three protagonists together is so wrong) but with immense compassion for its characters & a remarkably compelling way with the details of their lives. Peter Morgan's script skewers both the fake 'seers' who profit from people's misery & a materialistic western culture uncomfortable with discussing death. It cleverly & quite frighteningly uses real life disasters to underline the essential fragility of life, asks lots of questions but remains ambiguous about any afterlife. The final scene is beautiful & it underlines the whole point of the story; that it's the connections we make with people on this Earth that count most. One of the best films of the year & one of Eastwood's very best. The critics have gotten this one wholly wrong.

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