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A 2010 movie directed by Clint Eastwood.

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It's a Matter of Life, Death, and Life After Death

  • Oct 20, 2010
Many of us have a terrible tendency to pigeonhole filmmakers into the genres we think they're best suited for. When I first saw the trailer for "Hereafter," I, like much of the moviegoing public, was unpleasantly surprised at the thought of Clint Eastwood having directed a supernatural drama. Given his recent triumphs with films like "Mystic River," "Million Dollar Baby," "Changeling," "Gran Torino," and "Invictus," it just didn't seem like something he would have or should have done. As usual, I was reacting impulsively; "Hereafter" is an incredibly strong film, in large part because Eastwood resisted the temptation to treat it as a thriller. It certainly has mysterious elements, but for the most part, it's a poignant, thought-provoking story of how different people react to traumatic circumstances.

The common thread of the story is death - or, more accurately, what awaits us after we die. Although glimpses of a spiritual void are revealed, neither Eastwood nor writer Peter Morgan makes any grand claims as to what it is or how it works. In other words, the film assumes the reality of life after death, but it doesn't linger on details such as heaven, hell, purgatory, or anything else resembling eternal punishment or eternal reward. There isn't even a discussion about the existence of God. This isn't a criticism. We've seen far too many movies in which deathly states are both explicitly examined and regarded with either extreme sentimentality or extreme terror; "Hereafter" wisely avoids these clichés, in effect keeping the true nature of death a mystery.

The film is initially structured as three separate storylines, all of which theatrically but cleverly converge during the final act. In the first storyline, we follow Marie Lelay (Cécile de France), a French television journalist for a left-wing political program. While on vacation, a tsunami tears through the resort and sweeps her away, causing a near death experience. (While never directly stated, I'm forced to assume that Eastwood was depicting the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that destroyed coastal cities in Indonesia, India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.) Miraculously, she's revived. However, upon returning to France, she finds the experience has had more of an effect than she ever thought possible. She can no longer concentrate on her work, damaging her celebrity status. She's consumed with thoughts of life after death, a possibility that neither her atheist lover (Thierry Neuvic) nor her secular coworkers are willing to consider.

The second story focuses on George Lonegan (Matt Damon) a San Francisco factory worker who, after a childhood illness, gained psychic powers, specifically the ability to talk to the dead. He doesn't consider it a blessing, and he flatly refuses to step back into the spotlight as a celebrity psychic. In an Italian cooking class, he strikes up a friendship with a female student named Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), which seems like the beginnings of a contrived Hollywood romance until he takes her to his apartment; at that point, a simple but disturbing scene makes his reasons for trying to keep his ability abundantly clear. His brother (Jay Mohr) simply doesn't understand where he's coming from; the way he sees it, George is missing out on a tremendous financial opportunity.

The third story centers on a British boy named Marcus (Frankie McLaren), whose identical twin brother, Jason (George McLaren), is struck and killed after running in the middle of the street. This tragedy is made worse due to the fact that his mother, Jackie (Lyndsey Marshal), is a both drug addict and an alcoholic, forcing her into rehab; Marcus, now alone and in foster care, becomes withdrawn and moody, looking uncannily like the proverbial creepy child from a horror movie - pale skin, sunken eyes, and never a smile on his face. He gets obsessed with finding some way to reconnect with Jason's spirit, thus beginning his citywide search for a medium, someone who isn't merely selling crackpot ideas but can actually speak with the dead.

This particular plotline includes one of the film's best scenes, in which Jackie tearfully but bravely says goodbye to Marcus in the Social Services office. The reason it works so well is because it develops Jackie against our expectations. We've been conditioned by other films to see characters like her as hopeless and uncaring; I was prepared for scenes of emotional breakdowns and irrational behavior, such as her being completely unable to cope with Jason's death and somehow finding a way to blame it on Marcus. But nothing that conventional ever happens - even before her son dies, we see that she's finally coming to terms with her addiction problems, and her resolve only seems to strengthen after Jason's funeral. So too does her love for Marcus.

The ending is perhaps too conventional, although it appropriately challenges George's assertion that absolutely nothing good can come from his psychic abilities. It also nicely plays into the film's message, namely that, regardless of whether or not there is life after death, we must make the most of the time we're given here on Earth. Inevitably, this will involve the difficult but necessary task of moving on after a period of grieving; life is not about staying in the past, but going ahead. There may be certain atmospheric elements of "Hereafter" that seem atypical for Clint Eastwood, but in no way do they affect his affinity for strength of character and engaging stories. Don't dismiss this movie simply because of its supernatural overtones. There's so much more to it than that.

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November 21, 2010
Sounds like my kind of movie. I'm pretty unconventional myself :-) Excellent review!
October 21, 2010
Yup. Chris...pretty much we both have similar things to say about this movie.This would've been a little better for me, but I still enjoyed it.
October 22, 2010
Some have questioned my assertion that the film assumes the existence of an afterlife. I've also been told that every glimpse into the spiritual void is nothing more or less than a visual manifestation of each character's hope of what awaits them. I suppose an argument can be made for that point of view, although it seems fairly clear to me what the film is showing us. Still, it's possible that my own hopes about the existence of an afterlife clouded my judgment.
October 22, 2010
Well, I guess this is why this premise can be so interesting. People have such different beliefs and no one will ever truly know the truth until the time does come. I rather saw this movie as a story about how the living copes with the shadow of death.
October 21, 2010
Great review, my fav from him as a director is still "Changeling". I do need to see this one.
October 22, 2010
I agree. "Changeling" was a masterpiece.
More Hereafter (2010 movie) reviews
review by . October 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 ½ Stars: A Supernatural Drama About The Living And The Dead
I’ve always proclaimed that I have a fondness for movies directed by Clint Eastwood and I believe I've seen every movie directed by him. I like the way he develops his story and how he keeps a sense of simplicity when he frames his shots. Eastwood always goes for the first draft of any story; he went for the purity of Paul Higgins’ first story draft in “Million Dollar Baby” and I’ve read the same about the script of “Gran Torino” among his other …
review by . October 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Screenwriter Blake Snyder talks about delivering on the "promise of the premise" in the story concept, and delivering the "fun and games" associated with a winning idea. A movie like Home Alone - about the kid left to defend his house from burglars while the family's away - is a great example of this. Hereafter is supposedly about the only genuine psychic in the world - wow, what a great concept - but it never fully capitalizes on the idea.      The other …
review by . December 27, 2011
  There are essentially three very moving tales in this excellent film. Viewers hoping to learn about what happens to people after death, whether there is something or nothing, will be disappointed, because this is not the film's purpose. The hereafter is a backdrop to the three tales that Clint Eastwood directs and Matt Damon acts in very well.     One story is about the character played by Damon. He discovers that he has the ability to see and hear a dead relative …
review by . March 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
What is after death? Wrong question!
Hereafter is a movie I saw right after Sunset Limited. Both deal with death and human’s survival in the world. Hereafter is a movie that attempts to answer the question about life after death although its focus is on those who survived and their attachment to close people who had passed on.         Matt Damon is the psychic who gets his vibes from people through the sense of touch. He “hears” what the dead had to say to those who are seeking them. …
review by . October 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Let's see this is my first review, so here goes.       Clint Eastwood -- high expectations, I think too high.   The opening scenes were heart pounding.  Man versus nature, no contest.  Visually I found the moving appealing.  But there  was a calmness/flatness that settled in after the Tsunami scene like the roller coaster ride was over, and it was.  I found myself getting exasperated with the plodding movement of the story.  Started …
review by . May 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "Hereafter" is being marketed as some sort of "Sixth Sense"-esque paranormal drama, although I assure you, it is far from one of those. It's a different venue for director Clint Eastwood, who is talented and skillful, and has made a film that matches the quality of the mass majority of his productions. This isn't a masterpiece, and it's not the best Eastwood directorial feature, but "Hereafter" is worth seeing in its own little ways, for its own little reasons.  &nb …
review by . October 30, 2010
HEREAFTER is an engrossing but frustrating film. My interest was held throughout, yet when it was all over, I was extremely disappointed in how little my interest added up to.    Directed by Clint Eastwood, HEREAFTER would appear to be exploring the old question "what happens to us after we die," but really it is a character study of a couple of folks who have very atypical experiences with death. Ultimately, it isn't terribly meaningful because it is NOT universal.    The …
review by . October 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Clint's Near Death Experiment
HEREAFTER   Written by Peter Morgan   Directed by Clint Eastwood   Starring Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Bryce Dallas Howard and George McLaren       Billy: A life that is all about death is no life at all.       It’s no secret that Clint Eastwood is getting up there in years.  He has been churning out films on an almost yearly basis in the last decade as if he is trying to cram as much work as possible into …
Quick Tip by . April 13, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
While I liked the story and the themes being dealt with in Hereafter, I couldn't help but feel somewhat disappointed with the screenplay which feels somewhat exploitative in the way it utilizes contemporary events such as the London subway terrorist bombings and the 2004 tsunami as well as the concept of mediums. I couldn't help but feel that I was watching a film that much like the spiritualist revival movement after WWI wanted to instill its viewers with hope and a belief in the afterlife, …
Quick Tip by . November 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I did like this movie, not because it was such an amazing story but it was more the visual experience and the way the different story lines all connected at the end. It will not change your mind about your beliefs of the afterlife or lack of it, but was enjoyable and thought provoking.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


  • Opened October 15, 2010 (Limited NY-LA-Toronto 10/15; Opens Wide 10/22) | Runtime:2 hr. 6 min.
  • PG-13
    Mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language
  • An American laborer (Matt Damon), a French journalist (Cécile de France) and a London schoolboy set out on a spiritual journey after death touches their lives in different ways.
  • Cast: Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Daniel McLaren, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Genres: DramaSupernatural Drama
  • Poster art for "Hereafter"
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    Director: Clint Eastwood
    Genre: Drama
    Release Date: October 20, 2010 limited
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Screen Writer: Peter Morgan
    Runtime: 129 minutes
    Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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