Access Reel Reviews: Hereafter

Access Reel Reviews: Hereafter

A drama centered on three people — a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy — who are touched by death in different ways. Staring Matt Damon and Cecile De France

Hereafter, being the 34th film directed by Clint Eastwood, Has already received high expectations.  Clint Eastwood’s moving portrayals of human emotion have excelled him into fame as a 5 star director and not just a fantastic actor. It is then disappointing that Hereafter fails to live up to my expectations based on his body of work.

The film’s beginning is promising, I give extra points to a movie that is dispersed amongst different parts of the world and is spoken in the dialect of that country. You are misled to believe that a major theme in the movie is the aftermath of a catastrophic natural disaster but the disaster itself is only the catalyst which enables the story to grow and is never really mentioned again, it is interesting to see something so dramatic being treated so trivially. The effects in that one scene are also very impressive but there’re only two instances of special effects and they are downplayed on purpose.

Another perplexing thing about this film is the lighting; the scene that introduces Matt Damon’s character is cast almost completely in shadow, whilst this could serve as an obvious metaphor it only really serves to alienate me from what is happening and what I’m supposed to be looking at. Focus is an important aspect of a dramatic movie especially when not all the information is available to us yet; I believe I missed parts of the story due to this annoyance. Another fact about the lighting is if you pay attention to many dramas they are almost always filtered in a grey or blue tinge, this makes the movie seem dull and washed out, although I am aware that the subject matter is solemn it can also make the movie seem to lag.

The themes were relatively simple in Hereafter. Three different perspectives of death and three different directions taken to come to terms with their own grief. The grief of the loss of a loved one, the grief of the loss of your own identity and the grief of being alone. The writer chose to base the plot on fact and science juxtaposed with faith and spirituality, which was an interesting idea, but he could have chosen to leave out chance and coincidence for the sake of a believable narrative, where there are too many opposing ideas credibility gets left behind. The three stories joining at the end formula has been done too often and doesn’t suit the themes expressed in Hereafter. I would have much preferred to see the characters solve their problems individually; spirituality is such a personal journey.

Clint Eastwood however, through his directorial talent, portrays a sense of spirituality within the film without alienating the audience with powerful imagery and religious dogma. The main problem with the film is that it is not evenly paced which in my belief is the most important devise for a dramatic film. A film begins feeling slow when the pace becomes uneven and any interesting story developments become forgotten. Drama is not a slow genre, they aren’t action packed or suspenseful but if they are done well they can hold your interest through the portrayal of the characters and their interactions. Matt Damon, whose story was the most interesting, was so natural in his alienation and is the best thing about the film. There was just not enough time given to elaborate specifically, given all the other themes going on at the same time. Individually the stories would have worked better.

There is no room for interpretation in this film, it tells you what to believe but I feel that the intent was to make you think about the possibilities of the afterlife.  It is not a film I felt for as personally as Gran Torino (2008) but maybe someone who can relate to the subject may feel differently.

I give Hereafter 3 stars out of 5

Hereafter opens in Australia on 10th February 2011