Robin Williams in a serious role? Could work. Robin Williams with an emotionally unstable wife? Ironic. Robin Williams dies and goes through heaven and hell? Cinematic gold.
Robin Williams plays Chris Nielsen, a doctor devoted to his artist wife, Annie, played by Annabella Sciorra. They're a loving couple that have experienced the heartbreak of losing their children in a car wreck. But when Chris is killed in a car crash as well, he must learn to move on and accept his death. He watches over his widow for the first few days after having died. But then he is transported into a "heaven" which he manifests, a beautiful world of paint inspired by his wife's art. His former mentor played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., who is also dead but not what he appears to be, guides him as he creates his own reality. But when Annie commits suicide Chris must journey into a dark netherworld to save her. There she has created her own afterlife, a "hell" to match her despair and pain. Chris enlists the aid of a tracker, played by Max von Sydow who is also dead and yet again not what he appears to be, who will help him find Annie. Along the way Chris is reunited with his children and learns that only through faith and vulnerability can one become strong enough to heal.
The film is directed by Australian filmmaker Vincent Ward and is a startling example of spiritual and psychological storytelling, even if the screenplay is convoluted at times. The film is based upon the book by Richard Matheson. Visually the film is absolutely breathtaking and gives us for the first time in centuries, a truly original idea of what life after death may look like. What hurts the film is the awkward way the story unfolds through flashbacks. Some films can handle a non-linear story but the editor fails to set up a proper chronology before assembling this epic picture. However viewers should not be deterred by this minor annoyance. It's still worth seeing... again and again.
The affordably priced DVD includes the following special features: audio commentary with Vincent Ward, alternate ending, two featurettes, photo gallery, cast & filmmakers' bios and filmographies, and dual interactive menus (one for Heaven and one for Hell).
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