Romy Shiller

Hereafter

In Film, review on September 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

Death is nothing more than a doorway, something you walk through – Dr. George Ritchie

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Peter Morgan
Starring: Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Frankie and George McLaren, Bryce Dallas Howard.

This is going to be a complex review (she says to herself). Either I’m preaching to the converted or the opposite – people who think psychic phenomena is bull. I liked this film and I strongly believe in psychic phenomena. What I appreciated was the balance. Some psychics were fake and some were genuine in this film. I saw the Woody Allen film ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ (2010) and the ‘rational’ folk think the psychic is a charlatan. The point there seemed to be that if one was rational they would disbelieve psychic phenomena. I tried not to be offended.

An article I found says, “Damon is good at playing conflicted characters, which is why Eastwood wanted him for this film. One of the ironies of Hereafter is that Damon’s psychic abilities seem legitimate in a profession crawling with phonies and charlatans. Yet, as Damon explained in an interview during filming, the guy’s honesty is no protection from the misery his gift causes him.”

We all have ideas about psychic hotlines, I’m sure. It would be easy to lump all psychics into one category. Subtlety is good. Another article says, “[T]here are plenty of nonbelievers who find psychic ability and communication with deceased loved ones hard to swallow. And there are charlatans and scammers who prey on the grief-stricken.”

A suspension of disbelief appears to be absent for most viewers. People are more than willing to view inanimate objects that turn into killing machines but psychics and near-death experiences are a problem. Go figure.

Plot: 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. 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.

Basically this film was a quest-film. The school boy wants to find the psychic, the French journalist wants acceptance and the psychic wants a normal life. People seem to be distracted by the subject matter – death – but it is pretty basic, you know. Some believers in psychic phenomena wanted more warmth, heart or soul. I guess that I was just glad that psychic phenomena were represented at all. Once it becomes usual then we can talk about certain qualities.

In a February 2010 interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Clint Eastwood described “Hereafter” as “…three different stories with people who have gone through some sort of stressful time and it’s about how they sort of converge together. Much like a lot of French movies have been in the past, where the stories kind of converge together, and destiny drives each person towards the other.”

He moves beyond the subject-matter.

The CGI (Computer-generated imagery) is great. Editing, cinematography and acting – very good…

I remember reviewing ‘Avatar’ (2009) and there was a similar reaction to the representation of disability. There seems to be an impulse towards a certain kind of representation in both cases. I understand this but I rarely expect accuracy in film. Balance is reward enough for me.
The journalist (Cécile De France as Marie) is caught in a tsunami. She drowns and is brought back to life. She has a near-death experience. “de France has a most complex role as a successful French journalist swept to the brink of death by an Indonesian tsunami before returning to life a changed woman.” Source

Eventually, she is commissioned to write a political book but she writes about her experience with death. Initially, there is prejudice levied against her by the publishing company, and then they realize that this book could do well. She calls her book ‘Hereafter’ like this film.

The psychic (Damon as George) takes a job as a construction worker. His brother wants him to return to his old life including website and renown so that he could profit off of him. We find out that contacting the dead, with messages for loved ones, puts him in a compromised spot. He has made an informed decision to leave that behind him.

The boy (Frankie and George McLaren as Marcus/Jason) has a twin brother who has died. The boy desperately wants to contact his brother and his various attempts to find a channel lead to charlatans. Here we have a good example that fakes exist. While it might be forced that Damon is for real at least there is a viable option presented.

Harry Kloman says, “If one idea emerges here that’s even slightly startling — at least for a mainstream film — it’s that religion has the afterlife wrong and God has nothing to do with it. Tell us something we don’t know. Every 15 minutes or so, Eastwood presents a scene that’s especially chilling or moving, but only because death and its concomitant sadness always seize our emotions and focus our attention. It may seem odd that Eastwood has made a supernatural film after half a century of being so down to earth. In fact, he’s always traded in fantasy fulfillment and allegory, unless you believe that Dirty Harry is somehow even remotely “realistic.”

I was entertained here. Eastwood is a very capable director. Damon is a good actor. No, it’s not the best film ever made but it’s hardly the worst.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

This was sent to me and I thought I’d share:

I thought this HEREAFTER Visual Effects Shot Breakdown reel might interest you.  It highlights how Scanline VFX/Los Angeles, together with overall VFX Supervisor Michael Owens, created some of the visual effects for the film.  It has been cleared for Immediate Use.

In addition to receiving an Academy Award® nomination for Best Visual Effects, HEREAFTER won the Visual Effects Society (VES) Award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture.  This marks the first time in the 9-year history of the VES Awards that the winner for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects also received an Academy Award® nomination.

To access the reel:

Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/19959832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoAHO4_jPzQ

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