Why are you running? I didn’t think the film was THAT bad.

Theatrical Release Date: 10/22/2010
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr, Thierry Neuvic


Don’t be naïve. Your Internet searches are being monitored.

When we die, is there anything waiting for us? Do we simply shut off like a machine once the plug is pulled? Or is there some spirit/energy/consciousness that lives on somewhere between what we perceive as life and the great unknown called death? Those are the fundamental questions at hand for writer Peter Morgan and director Clint Eastwood.

In “Hereafter”, Matt Damon is a psychic – able to connect with departed souls and communicate to their loved ones on their behalf. His “gift” cannot be controlled and has relegated him to a life of seclusion in order to avoid becoming a freak show. His life crosses paths with a French journalist (Cécile De France) who has a near-death experience and a young boy who loses a twin brother (Frankie & George McLaren). Together, they attempt to reconcile their experiences and come to some sort of closure.

Considering Morgan’s previous efforts (“Frost/Nixon“, “The Queen“, “The Last King of Scotland“) and Eastwood’s abilities behind the camera, I though this just might deliver on its potential. Sadly, I was wrong.

Now, there are plenty of good elements here. The tsunami special effects that open the film are pretty good, the adults give good performances (though none are stellar), and even though the child actors are a bit wooden, the story still pulls on the heartstrings effectively.

Although many of those moments work, the overall film is a bit schizophrenic and there just isn’t enough balance between light and dark to make everything coalesce. A beautiful and charming scene between Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard as they flirt during a cooking class is not suitably matched up in emotional impact to the subsequent scene as Damon must reveal his secret to her.

Similarly, Eastwood spends 90% of the film painting a bleak picture and then caps it all off with easy resolutions and a shiny, happy tone shift. One could almost say this is the feel good talking with the dead movie of the year! (The number of films this year that opt for rosy conclusions despite darker central themes is quickly becoming an epidemic.)

Then there’s the far too over-used storytelling technique of magically creating a set of circumstances (some might say fate but I’d say you’re being too kind) that allows a man from San Francisco, a woman from Paris and a boy from London to all bump into each other just when its necessary and convenient for the film to begin wrapping itself up. There are plenty of other plot devices that could have brought these people together … they’re just not so darn clever (and far less of a cliché).

While I was adequately satisfied with most of “Hereafter”, the 180 degree turn that comes out of nowhere twenty minutes before the end credits, the complete lack of set-up for the final minute, and a score that gets out of hand by that point, land this film squarely in 3 out of 5 territory. I’m not annoyed about seeing it but didn’t even take any discussion points out of the film – which is sort of sad considering the implications of the premise.

3 out of 5