The name Clint Eastwood used to be synonymous for rough and tumble cowboys, yet lately Eastwood has taken fans a new direction through films such as Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) and Gran Torino (2008). Though undertaking difficult themes has become a dominant trait of Eastwood’s directing career, the spiritual nature of this psychological thriller is definitely the most drastic change yet.
The story follows three lives all intertwined by a fascination with life after death, or the hereafter. Matt Damon stars as a “reformed psychic” who has turned his back on his gift (or curse, should you ask him) of being able to interact with the dead. Co-stars Cécile de France, and Lyndsey Marshall seek out answers of their own, each motivated by different events of their past. The most moving performance of the film goes to young actor Frankie McLaren, who plays a London school boy grief stricken after the death of his twin brother.
The film is not a deep exploration of paranormal activity, but focuses on the reactions and actions of individuals who have come in close contact with death, whether through a personal experience or the death of a loved one. The grief, mourning, and healing process experienced are complex, with no two reactions being identical. Yet the process itself, though painful, is a necessary step towards rebuilding the world that death has torn apart—that is precisely what this movie examines.
Unfortunately, the high hopes I had for the latest Eastwood film were quickly squelched. While the film does contain beautiful scenes and pull at the heartstrings with bouts of intense emotional anguish, I left the theater irritated and unsatisfied. At 2 hours and 6 minutes, the film is slow to reach the peak of complexity (it would be a stretch to in any way call this a thriller). There are no clear cut answers to driving question of the film “what comes after?” Hints given during the film were brief generalizations such as “weightless” and “no sense of time.” At best, Hereafter serves as a superficial glimpse into humans’ deepest fears and beliefs.
If you don’t mind spending a lot of time waiting in the doctor’s office for a 5 minute appointment, you may not mind wasting your money on this film in theaters. My advice? Wait for it to come out on Redbox.