Hereafter | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Hereafter 

Trilogy of Error: Hereafter grasps at profundity by tying three dull stories together.

Pin It
Favorite
Hereafter
  • Hereafter
Here’s a handy tip for any aspiring screenwriter out there: Let’s say you have three or four moderately interesting but half-baked story ideas and can’t figure out how to develop any one of them into a feature-length narrative. Why don’t you just combine them into a single script, and make everything seem more deeper and more profound than it really is?

I’m not saying that’s what was on Peter Morgan’s mind as he was crafting the screenplay for Hereafter, but the cynic in me can’t help but wonder. After all, you couldn’t blame an experienced screenwriter like Morgan—already an Oscar nominee for The Queen and Frost/Nixon—if he noticed the predominant critical reaction to movies like Crash and Babel, which threw a bunch of characters together, tacked on some sort of “isn’t it fascinating how interconnected we all are” material, then waited for the hosannas to rain down. Hereafter’s three mostly parallel narrative strands are fairly uninvolving individually; twisted together into something that grasps at profundity, it just starts to feel desperate.

Those three stories begin not just in different cities, but in different countries. In San Francisco, George Lonegan (Matt Damon) tries to find a normal life after abandoning the psychic abilities—he can connect to a person’s dead loved ones with just a touch of the hand—that once made him a minor celebrity. Meanwhile, French TV journalist Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) finds her life turned upside down after a near-death experience during a tsunami leaves her with visions of the afterlife. And in London, a young boy named Marcus (Frankie & George McLaren) is left adrift after his twin brother Jason dies during a traffic accident.

Hereafter grabs the audience with the natural disaster that changes Marie’s life—a CGI-manufactured set piece that provides a surprising visceral punch—as well as with the events that leave young Jason dead. But shortly thereafter, the film settles into the melancholy mood that is director Clint Eastwood’s default setting of late, whether he’s dealing with an inspirational rugby match (Invictus), a cranky old man (Gran Torino), or a missing child (Changeling). The Eastwood-composed piano and/or guitar music plays, cinematographer Tom Stern provides shadowy compositions and people stare forlornly into the distance—predictable for late-model Eastwood, yet perhaps fairly appropriate for a movie about grief and people confronting the question of what happens after death.

But Morgan, it turns out, doesn’t have anything interesting to say about either subject. Marie becomes obsessed enough with her visions that she visits a doctor (Marthe Keller) who provides “scientific evidence” of near-death experiences; Marcus tries to investigate religious and New Age-y teachings about the afterlife; and George attempts to start a relationship with a woman he meets in a cooking class (Bryce Dallas Howard). The plotting moves these people along, but Morgan never takes enough time to really confront the tangled feelings of people struggling to reconcile what they’ve previously thought to be true with what they want to be true. Like virtually every film that addresses the world beyond, it simply regurgitates a bland pudding of comforting nondenominational platitudes.

That would have been frustrating enough—and then Hereafter decides that it’s extremely important to yank these three people’s lives into closer proximity. If there were a superlative form of “contrived,” that’s exactly the word one would want to use for the way Morgan chooses to make that intersection happen, resulting in encounters that seem intended to be cathartic yet instead merely emphasize how little we truly know these characters. The fact that they have a chance to look one another in the eye does nothing to make them—or the previous 100 minutes of filmmaking—more interesting.

You really get a sense of what’s missing during the scenes with Howard, whose character is the only one expressing prickly, genuinely human-seeming emotions. For a movie about life and death, Hereafter almost never finds its main characters appearing angry, or scared, or engaged in any meaningful way with what’s happening to them. Marie responds to suspicions of her lover’s infidelity with the same vague disappointment that Marcus shows when a variety of fraudulent “sensitives” offer no insight into Jason’s fate. Hereafter is a movie that tells us nothing, and does so in a generally tedious way—but hey, isn’t it fascinating how interconnected we all are?

HEREAFTER

2_stars.gif

Matt Damon, Cécile de France, Bryce Dallas Howard
Rated PG-13

Scott Renshaw:


Pin It
Favorite

Speaking of...

  • C Street Studios

    A chat with the director behind the independent filming company.
    • May 15, 2017
  • Faultline Film Awards

    Previewing the signups and awards showcase happening at the U.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Long Way North

    A chat with Rémi Chayé about his directorial debut.
    • Nov 18, 2016
  • More »

More by Scott Renshaw

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Weave Got This

    Bad Hair turns the loss of Black identity into satisfying body horror.
    • Oct 21, 2020
  • Making Sense

    David Byrne's American Utopia turns a concert into a celebration of collective humanity.
    • Oct 14, 2020
  • Down to Earth

    Sofia Coppola bypasses lush romanticism for the playful character study of On the Rocks
    • Oct 7, 2020
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • A Dream Come True

    After half a lifetime, Savannah Ostler's Twice the Dream becomes reality.
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • Simple Creatures

    The monster movie Sputnik can't deliver the subtext it promises
    • Aug 12, 2020

© 2020 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation