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Film Review: Hereafter

4th February 2011

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Death is a grand and relatively unattractive topic on which to base a film but under the direction of Clint Eastwood, ‘Hereafter’ attempts to do so by telling the story of three different people. These people are French TV presenter (Cécile De France), a young boy whose mother is a heroin addict (George and Frankie Mclaren) and one George Lonegan (Matt Damon) who after some bungled back surgery has gained the power to talk with the dead.

Damon plays the role of this tortured man who is destined to lead a solitary life, with humility and sensitivity – showing his talents as an introspective and thoughtful actor. However, he can only go so far as he is clearly kept within very modest boundaries by the limitations the story.

 After introducing three strands or stories to the narrative, the film manages them awkwardly, focussing more on some whilst abandoning another for large periods of time. Eastwood also appears reticent to bring them together, the impression being that we are watching three separate and rather average films about death. Instead of teasing or thrilling the audience with the possibility of the stories meeting, it is delayed to such an extent that when this does happen, it is not with joy but relief that we watch these scenes. Absurd coincidences are to blame for this unsatisfying and baffling climax.

The simplicity and subtlety which Eastwood employed in directing ‘Million Dollar Baby’ has become more slow and basic with ‘Hereafter’ as the film anxiously progresses with little confidence, no gathering of pace, excitement or realisation. Indeed, there are many scenes that seem redundant and only work to slow and distract the story.

A risk is taken by having a third of the story being focused on that of the young boy who unfortunately, delivers some monotone and lifeless acting comparable to Daniel Radcliffe’s early performances in the Harry Potter films.

The film has been nominated for an Oscar in the category of Visual Effects, and to its credit, this scene is striking and well done. There are also some genuinely moving scenes involving the young twins who try to manage their lives with a heroin addicted mother.

Matt Damon does his best to give depth and a sense of personal tragedy to a film that tells its tale in a truly unremarkable way. We can only deduce that ‘Hereafter’ will be quietly joining the host of other films that have attempted to tackle grand topics but will be forgotten, hereafter.   

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