“Hereafter” may go over your head

“Hereafter” may be one of the best films released this year, but most who see it probably won’t think so. I know because as I was walking out of the theater, soaking it all in, I overheard the disappointed spectators around me saying how bad it was and how nothing happened. Unfortunately for those people the fact that they are not astute enough to understand a film with such bold emotional statements doesn’t make this a bad film, it just makes them have the intelligence of a fifth grader — and, sadly, that’s an insult to
fifth graders.

“Hereafter” is the latest project from acclaimed actor-turned-director Clint Eastwood. Aside from a moving, thought-provoking storyline about the afterlife, it also features the acting talent of Oscar winner Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film follows several characters in different parts of the world: France, England and the U.S., but mainly focuses on George Lonegan (Damon), who lives in San Francisco and is a retired psychic who cannot evade his calling, though he tries.

Lonegan lives alone and attempts to live a normal life, but somehow, people who wish to contact the dead find him and drag him back into performing readings for them. At the same time, several of the other main characters, a French woman named Mary LeLay (Cécile De France), and a British boy, Marcus (Frankie MacLaren), have personal encounters with death.

For starters, forget special effects or any kind of manufactured, fancy, computer-generated tricks to astound you. Though, there are a few, like the tsunami in the opening scene, which destroys an entire town. These effects weren’t done very well and they are not what make this movie great. Eastwood is all about advancing the plot and the films he directs are much more about character development and matters of the heart than cheesy Hollywood clichés.

Eastwood takes his time to introduce you to each character and their stories. Although this feels like it’s dragging just a bit, it is necessary in order for the viewer to develop an emotional investment in each character. With a running time of just more than two hours, Eastwood definitely gave supple time to unfold each character in the story.

I was expecting the worst. All I knew about the story was that it was about a psychic, there was going to be a lot of talk about death, and perhaps, a natural disaster or two. This is what I picked up from the trailer. Then, I accidentally read a headline for a review, which deemed the movie as being way too slow, so my hopes were not very high. However, Eastwood has shown now, as a director, that his films are a completely different breed. Just as in “Mystic River,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Million Dollar Baby,” or “Gran Torino,” Eastwood is not here to dazzle you with camera tricks, but to be an honest and powerful storyteller.

There is power in this film. At times it’s sad, though there is enough charm and wit to keep it entertaining, but it’s a tough subject to tackle. All of these characters are dealing with death somehow so the subject-matter is not the lightest. However, at the end of the day, Eastwood’s brilliance, a sophisticated story, and noteworthy acting, particularly on the part of Matt Damon, make this another homerun for the veteran director.

So definitely go see this film. Maybe you’ll disagree with me, but hopefully you’ll be sensitive enough to find the meaning in this film. Watching “Hereafter” is pretty close to reading a book. Yes, it takes more effort, but the reward is, usually, quite incomparable.

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