DVD Review: Hereafter

PDFPrintE-mail Thursday, 23 June 2011

DVD / Blu-ray Reviews

Hereafter is a film that wants to be profound. It wants to make you question what happens when you die, but the most resounding question this plodding piece of drivel leaves hanging is how a film directed by Clint Eastwood, scripted by Peter Morgan and co-produced by Steven Spielberg could be so under-developed.

The story opens with French television reporter Marie Lelay (Cecile De France), whose tropical holiday is spectacularly ruined by the arrival of a massive tsunami. Narrowly surviving the incident, her joy at being alive is soon hampered when she starts experiencing visions of shadowy figures surrounded by a dazzling light that gradually begin to derail her waking life.

Also touched by the otherworldly are inseperable twins Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) who are parted by tragedy when one of them is killed in a freak car accident, and reluctant San Francisco psychic George (Matt Damon), who struggles with his ability to communicate with the dead.

It sounds like a promising set up and it really should have been, but things quickly take a turn for the silly when the trio's fates begin intertwining at a London book fair in which Sir Derek Jacobi – playing himself for some unknown reason – reads from his new audio CD of Dickens' stories.

The early scenes in which a tsunami devastates a tropical beach before sweeping through the town in a torrent of destruction are brilliantly done, rivalling anything in a Roland Emmerich film and doing more than enough to make you think twice about where to spend your holidays.

The story does a good job of highlighting the appeals and dangers of using using belief in the afterlife as a comfort blanket, but it's simply too much of a drag to be truly enjoyable. Very little happens after the mania of the opening tsunami, which is strangely apt since the story plods along at the speed of a continental shift.

George's futile attempts to stop using his psychic powers for profit after a lifetime of using them to squander countless riches are fascinatingly offset by his greedy brother (Jay Mohr), who coerces him into using his ability for his own gain, while Marcus – brilliantly played by young newcomer Frankie McLaren – attempts to reach his deceased brother in the afterlife as his mum descends deeper and deeper into a self-destructive heroin addiction.

The characters are believeable, sympathetic and develop well during the course of the film, their stories and experiences flowing together beautifully, but anyone who doesn't appreciate slow moving, character led drama won't find anything to convert them here.

It's a thoughtful, and at times upsetting look at how some people can sink so far into their need to believe in the afterlife that they themselves almost cease to live, while for others the heareafter represents nothing but pain and discomfort, yet these points are never fully explored. When the film's credits finally roll they're accompanied by a sense that the film, like the lives of its characters, was never quite whole.

The bonus material is made up of a featurette that CGI fans will surely go crazy for entitled Tsunami! Recreating a Disaster, a so-so documentary called Hereafter's Locations – Casting the Silent Characters in which crew members discuss what led them to choose San Francisco, London and Paris as its main locations, and The Eastwood Experience in which Clint Eastwood examines the world of sceptics, psychics and mediums and the possibility of life after death.

Hereafter is available on DVD and Blu-ray now

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