Clint Eastwood is a cold, distant, crabby man who, as director, makes cold, distant, crabby films. One scarcely associates charm with Eastwood. However, the final five minutes or so of his Hereafter are indeed charming, full of the quiet, soulful spark of budding romance. For the most part, the film is tedious, morose, repressed; but those five minutes redeem the whole, creating a tender, hopeful final impression. This is Eastwood’s most humane and appealing film.
Peter Morgan, the Brit who wrote The Queen (2006) and Frost/Nixon (2008), has concocted a Kieślowskian script involving three persons who have had a brush with death; in due course, these characters stray beyond the boundaries of their individual rotating episodes and cross paths. Marie Lelay, a Parisian television journalist, nearly dies in Thailand as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In San Francisco, George Lonnegan (Matt Damon, wonderful), a genuine one-time professional psychic, can communicate with the dead; he considers this a “curse,” but now that George has lost his factory job his brother wants him to resume giving readings, ostensibly to help others, but really to make them both rich. In London is another pair of brothers, 12-year-old twins Jason and Marcus; when pedestrian Jason is fatally caught in traffic, Marcus is left on his own, without his dearest friend and guide through life. All three experience contact with the afterlife. Meanwhile, Morgan has publicly stated he doesn’t believe in the “hereafter.”
Eastwood has scored the film in a sad, plaintive, minimalist style. He and Tom Stern, his cinematographer, have artily and laboriously devised a frustrating number of underlit shots. Perhaps they feel that light kicks in on the “other side.” Cupided by Marcus, the closing romantic encounter between Marie and George, outdoors, is calmly, beautifully lit.
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