Review: Eastwood's Hereafter Goes Through the Boring Motions

October 22, 2010

Clint Eastwood's Hereafter

I imagine an elderly gentleman walking down a gray sidewalk, arms resting at his sides, as he walks one small step after one small step. He moves slow. His aged bones allow him to move only so fast. You can't determine his destination, the place where he's taking so long to finally end up. But you do know it's taking him so long to get there that you go on about your business, almost uncaring of the location of point B.

And that is what I imagine when I think of Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, a film about the afterlife and about people who question what comes next after we die. Told over three stories that are unrelated at first, the film takes its time getting to point B, as well, the overall point, really, of the film. Its tedious and meandering scenes offer very little insight into what Eastwood and screenwriter Peter Morgan were aiming for. What we can gleam from the film, though, is that once we do realize where the film is headed, we uncover a truth about Hereafter that is almost as sad as that old man walking down the sidewalk. There is no point.

Hereafter opens with Cécile de France playing Marie, a French journalist on vacation with her lover/producer. In the film's opening and rather harrowing 20 minutes, we watch as a tsunami hits the coastal town where they are staying. Marie is caught in the ensuing rush of water, something that she does not live through. As she lays dead on a rooftop where a few rescuers have taken her, she sees images, flushed out in black and white, of dark figures standing against a bright white background. Marie comes to alive and well, but the images she has seen causes her to make the topic of the afterlife her new obsession.

We then move to San Francisco where Matt Damon's character, George, does a psychic reading for a friend of his brother's. George, with the touch of your hand, is able to sense and communicate with those you have lost. He is a genuine psychic, but it is a gift that he sees as a curse. Despite his brother's egging on, George pushes his powers deep within himself, trying to go about his day with some sense of normalcy.

The third story involves twin brothers in the United Kingdom. Marcus and Jason, played by Frankie and George McLaren, care for each other. They have to, as their mother is a druggie and alcoholic. When child protective services come to check on them, they prepare their mother for her, and do everything in their power to hold the family together the only way they know how. However, when a car accident kills Jason, Marcus makes it his passion to see to it that his brother has gone on to something better.

And those are the general premises of the three stories here. Unfortunately, Eastwood and editors Joel Cox and Gary Roach seem a sense of urgency is never necessary in telling any of these stories or in cutting between them. We rest on one particular story for ample amounts of time, completely shutting the other two out of our sight and mind. When we finally do cut to the next one, it almost feels jarring, as if in all the dilatory time we spend with each character we still don't get a sense of direction or meaning.

This is, unfortunately, something Eastwood has been accused of before. With 2006's Flags of our Fathers, he took a rather interesting story and created a ponderous film that said what it had to say and then said it again and again and again. He does the same in Hereafter particularly with Damon's George. We understand right from the first scene with George he does not like using his gifts. He flat out tells the character of his brother's friend, played by Richard Kind, "I don't even do this any more." The necessity to have it explained to us again and again is never explained. It isn't necessary, and, by the time he finally does move on to the next part of his story, one that ultimately leads to the culmination of the film, we have generally stopped caring.

The same can be said for de France and McLaren's characters. We understand that Marie is obsessed with the afterlife. We know that it is going to lead to her doing a project that involves this topic. Why we need to observe her research on the project, for lack of a better term, is anyone's guess. Marcus, having lost his brother and, ultimately, his mother, lives with foster parents, but he skulks around the city streets wearing his brother's baseball cap, an aspect of his character that actually leads to one of the film's only real startling moments. The opening tsunami is another of these moments, even though the CG that creates it seems half realized much of the time.

Those moments aside, Hereafter moves at a snail's pace, but, fortunately, Eastwood's visual eye, as well as that of cinematographer Tom Stern, still has merit. The three, differing stories each have their own look, but it, unlike the stories, are never a jarring transition from one to the other. Without a certain level of analysis, you might not even be able to determine the difference in appearance, but it's there from the all but gray look of Marcus' story to the slightly brighter world Marie lives in.

The acting from Damon and de France are commendable at best, always seeming to connect with their respective characters, but any idea of nuance seems to have been scrapped along with the rest of the film. Child actors are generally hard to watch. Only a few instances now and again are really worth mentioning, so the less said about either McLaren brother the better. Everyone else on screen seems to be sleepwalking through their parts with the exception of Bryce Dallas Howard, who turns in a good performance for a character who is extremely hard to sympathize with.

But maybe Hereafter is all about the sleepwalking, going through the motions of an adult drama without very little to say. What it does say, it reiterates ad nauseum, and what it actually has to say is nothing fresh or interestingly conveyed. It's the Eastwood we've come to know in recent years, choosing to make the cut that reveals Hereafter's meaning with a chainsaw rather than a surgical knife. The only thing we can do when we finally see where the elderly man is headed is shrug our shoulders and hope he gets there on his own. We simply don't have the patience to watch the journey from beginning to end any more. Maybe the beings we see in Hereafter's afterlife sequences aren't dead. Maybe they're just sleeping.

Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10

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I respectfully disagree with the reviewer, who, like other reviewers, are imposing a filter on subject- matter on which conventional distillations are impossible, if inappropriate. Mr. Eastwood's thoughtful meditation is not modeled on the American appetite for instant-gratification. Why, are we, as a nation, afraid to walk into a mystery?

Joseph Dumas on Oct 22, 2010


@ #1: I'm not afraid of walking into a mystery at all. I just have a hard time dropping ten bucks, to end up watching a steaming pile of shit. Movies don't always have to be rapid fire, in their pacing. I like movies that take their time, on their journey and set up their atmosphere. For example, I prefer the Redux cut of Apocalypse Now, over the shorter original cut. It plays better, in my opinion; and the longer cut renders it as a sort of Huck Finn raft ride, on hallucinogens. Rather than a trip through life, on the Mississippi, in 1800's America; it is a true descent, into the madness, of war. It's meditative and deliberate and above all, it goes somewhere. This latest Eastwood film sounds like it has none of that. When the reviewer compares it to "Flags of Our Fathers" I know I don't need to bother seeing it. Eastwood unfortunately made a mess out of that film; sacrificing the telling, of the characters' stories, for his political agenda. He redeemed himself almost immediately, though when a short time later he released the companion film "Letters From Iwo Jima". That film had all of the character development and emotional impact that films like "Flags" and "Million Dollar Baby" (which, by the way, stole its' big emotional coda, from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") were lacking.

Dave Lister, J.M.C. on Oct 22, 2010


I've seen the flim aswell and I must say that I really liked it. And Josph, well said.

Left Hook on Oct 22, 2010


@1 because a lot of us know how it ends from the beginning. i figured most of this out before the end of the first story so there really wasn't even a mystery to walk into........

Jericho on Oct 22, 2010


This movie has gotten more conflicting reviews than I can count. I believe it has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. There are four movie review sites I read two said it's good two said it's not. I'm really split on whether or not to see it.

Moon on Oct 22, 2010


I have noticed through my many years of reading movie reviews that a great number of critics abhor any movie that deals with spiritual matters in any way, unless of course the religious or spiritual people turn out to be loonies or "priests with doubts". There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking....

kitano0 on Oct 22, 2010


I agree with #1 and I expect the movie to be a success totally. It's an area that people whose beliefs are not in accordance with the subjects raised, they automatically put it aside without being afraid of reconsider them.It's a movie that make people question life and beyond.....

I am on Oct 22, 2010


I so agree with #6 too!, @ the end of the day, it's nothing but another opinion....

iam on Oct 22, 2010


#2 and # 5 #2:Your very words "his latest Eastwood film sounds like it has none of that. When the reviewer compares it to..." prove that those kinds of movies are not for you and all the lot who think like you as it the kind of movies that challenges minds, not the kind of minds that waits for movie reviews before deciding to watch a movie or not. That's what trailers are for.. to decide what to do when it comes to watch movies or not. without a review 🙂 Well #5 : Your nickname may excuse you for your behaviour towards movies, so I won't even comment on you

I am on Oct 22, 2010


@ #9 The trailer, for this makes it look like something made, for the Hallmark Channel. The reviews I've seen raised my assessment of the film slightly; but they, also, convinced me that the film is not something I'd want to spend time watching.

Dave Lister, J.M.C. on Oct 22, 2010


I am a medium, like the character played by Matt Damon, and Eastwood's script and direction honestly convey what the experience is like: open-ended--that is, sometimes, without the neat resolution that the usual American narrative expects.

Joseph Dumas on Oct 22, 2010


That is the most horrible and boring review I haver ever read. Though I haven't seen the movie.

Joe T on Oct 22, 2010


DONT GO SEE IT. Wait until it is on DVD or RedBox. First 20 minutes great.... then..... then.. very slow I'm all for character developement but WOW this was SO SLOW it hurts the movie. Its a little over 2hours and 20-30 minutes could've been cut. It doesnt add anything to the story or characters. To bad because it couldve and shouldve been a lot better.

Hopping in South Carolina on Oct 22, 2010


Well #11 , not only mediums like you but everybody who has an ounce of curiosity about Life and beyond will want to see this... So what the fuss is all about everyone? If the trailer didn't convince you, don't blame the reviewer and don't go to see it...simple Whatever indecision you have comes from your own character in general and nobody has nothing to do with this film alone 🙂

I am on Oct 23, 2010


It would help your credibility in reviewing films, if you would proofread your own reviews. That was painful to read. Aside from that, I really wouldn't expect you to review this film any other way, seeing how much this site promotes the "awesomeness" of Transformers and Michael Bay type films.

josh on Oct 23, 2010


I was going to see this movie but I saw Paranormal Activity instead it was HILAROUS! And way better story than the first one! But I still want to see this Clint Eastwood is an AMAZING Director no doubt about it and I wasnt expecting much from this anywise but Im sure it still pretty good!

N. on Oct 23, 2010


i hate critics. most people go through this world not carin bot every single being around them. first off Dave Lister, J.M.C. did u even watch the movie no let me rephrase tht did anyone watch the movie. if u did and still say "It has no point" as Dave Lister, J.M.C. said then you just dont understand a good no great no AWESOME movie by Clint eastwood thats lived longer then you and knows more then you. Go to hell Dave Lister, J.M.C. whoever understood and loved the movie and agree with everything this comment says then comment this and just say Dave Lister, J.M.C. ur pathetic and u dnt care bout the movie hell u didnt watch the movie u just want ur publisity for writing this review

Tyler on Oct 23, 2010


Forget Hereafter, I got bored reading this pointlesslylongwinded review. Get to the point already!!! Jesus..

hgj on Oct 24, 2010


Don't bother to see it. I love the movie premise and Matt Damon so I was very optimistic when I sat in the movie theater to watch this movie. I was still feeling hopeful after the first 30 minutes, but after an hour I started checking my watch as the movie continued to crawl. I almost considered walking out because I kept thinking of all the things I could be doing at home, but I decide to stay and just finished the movie. Unfortunately, I made the wrong choice and should have left.

kathi smith on Oct 24, 2010


@17 You made me laugh. Well done!

Dave Lister, J.M.C. on Oct 24, 2010


@ 11 LOL I am a Large depending on the clothing company.

Chris on Oct 25, 2010


Film critics are a dime a dozen. Most, in one way or another, simply cannot extend their imaginations from their immediate confines. Especially when dealing with certain subject matters. Which isn't to say that their point of view is any less valid, although, in my opinion, they do come off as a bit narrow. In any event, if Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper and James Berardinelli gave this film their stamp of approval, I'm game.

Herackles on Oct 27, 2010


@22 - I agree. Thank you.

Joseph Dumas on Oct 29, 2010

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