Hereafter * * *

Genre: Drama

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writer: Peter Morgan

Cast: Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Thierry Neuvic

Running Length: 129 minutes

Synopsis: Hereafter revolves around the stories of three unrelated people who are touched by death in different ways. George (Matt Damon) is an American who used to be a real-deal psychic, but quit to become a factory worker when his unique gift becomes the bane of his existence. Marie (Cecile de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience when she comes face to face with a tsunami whilst on a vacation. The incident opens her eyes to what she thinks is the afterlife, and changes her view on reality. Finally, there’s Marcus (George McLaren), a London schoolboy, who loses the person closest to him. Unable to deal with the loss, he desperately seeks a way to reconnect with the departed. Eventually their three paths intersect, forever changed by what they believe might – or must – exist in the hereafter.

Review: Contrary to what the trailer suggests, Hereafter is not strictly a supernatural drama in the veins of The Sixth Sense. Yes, it does deal with the afterlife, and Matt Damon’s character does indeed see dead people, but Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial offering can be more accurately described as a made-in-America French movie, deliberately paced and minimalistic, which is likely to turn some viewers off. However, Hereafter is a very well-acted and compelling human drama, and although it’s rather unfocused in the first two thirds, patient cinemagoers who are willing to give this film a shot will likely find themselves richly rewarded by the time the end credits roll.

Although all three plot threads are somewhat interesting, the storyline revolving around Damon’s psychic character is by far the most riveting. However, because the movie is structured in such a way that the plots remain wholly separate till the last half hour, it can get frustrating when the film pulls away from George to focus on Marie or Marcus. The eventual convergence of the three characters and their resolution also feels a little too convenient, but at least Eastwood’s direction never descends into the maudlin. There’s also this nagging sense that each of the three stories would have had enough material to sustain its own movie, and Eastwood’s attempt to balance all three, and not being entirely successful, is what prevents Hereafter from achieving true cinematic greatness.

Aside from the structural issues of the movie, the rest of Hereafter is about as good as it gets. The lead actors all put in excellent performances, but the standout is the young McLaren twins, plumbing an amazing depth of emotions with their riveting performance. Matt Damon also deserves kudos for a very understated, internalized but convincing turn as the tortured psychic, who has to deal with so much pain from all the psychic readings that he has shrunken away from meaningful relationships and human contact.  There’s also the very harrowing opening sequence of the tsunami devastating the seaside resort, and although the CGI borders on being hokey, the emotions generated by the scene is anything but. Clint Eastwood has proven his directorial strength time and again, and while this film may not rank amongst his best, Hereafter is still far better than most of the cinematic chaff that has been released of late.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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