Hereafter Movie Review

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Eastwood's skilfully unrushed direction merges with Morgan's astute, thoughtful screenplay to create a thoroughly unusual film that holds our interest with a provocative, beautifully played exploration of mortality.

George (Damon) has a gift: he can see into the afterlife and help people communicate with their lost loved ones. But he feels it's more like a curse.

Meanwhile in Paris, star journalist Marie (De France) has just recovered from a near-death experience. Instead of working on her planned biography of Mitterand, she instead starts investigating why accounts of after-death experiences are so shunned. And in London, pre-teen Marcus is looking for ways to communicate with recently deceased twin (they're played by Frankie and George McLaren).

This is a remarkable shift in tone for both Eastwood and Morgan, as the film remains grippingly introspective from the start. Events in the script echo real life stories (a devastating tsunami, a London Underground bombing), but the focus is on unknowable mysteries. And while there's plenty of scope for wrenching emotion, the film is surprisingly neither maudlin nor sentimental.

Which shouldn't be a surprise, since sentimentality has never been part of either Eastwood's or Morgan's repertoire.

As a result, the film effortlessly holds our attention, even though the three central characters tend to wander around in a daze most of the time. But we are thinking right along with them, which shows how powerful the acting, writing and directing really are. And when there's a scene of lively interaction, we feel it on a whole different level - Damon with Howard as a fellow cooking class student or with Mohr as his pushy brother, De France with Neuvic as her married colleague and lover, the McLarens with Marshal as their alcoholic mother.

In other words, despite some slightly overwrought plotting, the film somehow manages to entertain us on an almost existential level. It not only holds our interest, but moves us powerfully in a couple of key scenes. And as the three plot strands quietly (and slightly suddenly) merge, we somehow believe it because it's so well-grounded in our own human experience. We all know what it's like to hope for something that defies logic.

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Hereafter Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: 12, 2011

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