Who’s In It: Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr, Richard Kind, Thierry Neuvic, Frankie MacLaren, George MacLaren
The Basics: Matt Damon sees dead people, but connecting the living to their departed loved ones for cash has taken an emotional toll, so now he works in a San Francisco factory and takes cooking classes to meet new people. Across the world, a French television journalist (Cecile De France) begins obsessing about the great beyond after having a near-death experience. And over in foggy old London town, young foster kid Marcus (Frankie MacLaren) struggles with life on his own when his twin brother (George MacLaren) is killed in an automobile accident.
What’s The Deal: Hereafter is a movie that asks the Big Questions: What happens to us after we die? How do we go on living when we lose the ones we love? Unfortunately, it also leaves us with more nagging questions. Such as: Didn’t we already get these answers from Dionne Warwick in those Psychic Friends infomercials? At least they were entertaining and seemed ever so slightly aware of their own silliness. Not so Hereafter, which wastes its earnest poignancy with a script so reliant on corny storytelling clichés that it brings its three main characters together fatefully under shared cosmic bonds, tying everything neatly together; screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen) even shoehorns in a last-second romance as a cherry on top. But grief and loss and understanding are concepts compelling enough on their own to warrant thoughtful exploration without such corny flourishes, which is why you might leave the theater too lost in your own thoughts to remember anything that happened onscreen.
What Hereafter’s Hereafter Does Not Look Like: The ominous and strangely misleading marketing materials that suggest this is some sort of supernatural thriller, a la The Sixth Sense or that Milla Jovovich alien movie. On the posters, mysterious astral lights swirl, Matt Damon’s eyes glow like he’s got the shining, and everything’s blue. In the actual film, the space between spaces is shown to be a blurry, dimly lit in-between world where the dearly departed float in a vast murky plane and send their regrets back to Earth. It’s decidedly unexciting. Even Damon is intentionally at his dowdiest and most uncool in Hereafter. That’s how we know he suffers.
Is It Too Soon To Use Global Tragedy as Dramatic Fodder? Eastwood’s opening sequence, a CG-enhanced re-creation of the 2004 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia and killed 230,000 people, is Roland Emmerich-esque in its spectacle. Bodies are battered in the surge, children lose their lives, and buildings are destroyed – all to give the film’s female protagonist a glimpse of the afterlife. Later, a supernatural tip-off seemingly saves young Marcus from dying in the 2005 London subway bombings. And yet in the end, neither implication is followed up or given any sort of real payoff.
Who Gets More Mileage Out Of A Cameo Than Bryce Dallas Howard Does In All Of Her Screen Time: Derek Jacobi. And he does it while playing himself at a book fair.