Hereafter – Film Review

The unknown matter of death continues to fascinate us, whether or not we form our view from a religious, spiritual or nihilist perspective. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, weaves together the disparate stories of three characters, all intimately touched by death in different ways. Rising French career journalist, Marie Le Lay, survives the 2004 South East Asia tsunami, having drowned and been revived. George Lonegan, in San Francisco, flees a life long psychic “curse” of being able to contact the dead, an ability his older brother is always pressing him to exploit. A few cameos illustrate how destructive to living a normal life this is for George. Meanwhile, in London, 12 year old twins Marcus and Jason ward of Social Services to keep their small family together under the care of a loving but drug-addicted mother. Marcus’ world falls apart when Jason is hit by a truck and killed while running an errand. Slowly these stories come together, each seeking answers to their respective dilemmas. Marie Le Lay finds her career trajectory changed as she investigates the meaning of her and others near death experiences. George Lonegan flees across the Atlantic to escape his bane, but, ironically, finds himself in a place where he must confront it. Marcus must find resolution to his experience of abandonment and incompleteness as a surviving twin. These are each compelling human questions in their own right. Easy and contrived answers are demonstrated to be unsatisfactory, both in the story line, and unfortunately for the film, in the conclusion of its own narrative.

Of course, as a Christian pastor who has sat many times with those passing over the “great divide”, I acknowledge the particular bias to which my critique leans. Life and death alike are both mysteries to be fully engaged. Eastwood’s film almost makes it in places, recognising our strange simultaneous curiosity and aversion to matters of what happens after death, but doesn’t quite know how to bring a conclusion that has integrity. I came away feeling a bit like the boy Marcus when the plethora of mediums he consults leaves him speechless at their foolishness and ineffectiveness.

Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

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