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HEREAFTER

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Damon, Cecile de France, Frankie and George McLaren, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Marthe Keller, Thierry Neuvic, Derek Jacobi (Directed by Clint Eastwood; Written by Peter Morgan; Warner Brothers Pictures)

“One of the reasons that ‘Hereafter’ works as well as it does—it has the power to haunt the skeptical, to mystify the credulous and to fascinate everyone in between—may be that its subject matter is so clearly alien to the sensibilities of its makers. Communication with the dead is a risky business, principally because once the door to the beyond opens a tiny crack, all kinds of maudlin nonsense come rushing in...But one of Mr. Eastwood’s great and undersung strengths as a director is his ability to wade into swamps of sentimental hokum and come out perfectly dry... Persuasion is not really the point, though if anyone could make me believe in ghosts, it would be Clint Eastwood. And the afterlife itself remains, throughout the film, a vague, conjectural place, a zone of speculation rather than a freshly discovered and surveyed continent... What does seem new — newly strange, newly beautiful — is what ‘Hereafter’ makes of the here and now. It is a curious movie in both senses of the word: an unusual experience and an open-ended inquiry into something nobody can really claim to understand. It leaves you wondering, which may be the most fitting way of saying that it’s wonderful.”  --A.O. SCOTT, The New York Times

“Clint Eastwood’s ‘Hereafter’ begins with a magnificent re-creation of the 2004 tsunami as it hits an unnamed resort town in Southeast Asia...and it entirely overwhelms the rather pallid movie that follows...As George, Matt Damon stays all too faithfully in character. He’s puffy-looking and blockish and he doesn’t have a spark in him, not even a flicker of anger at the strange ability that is destroying George’s life. It’s the first boring performance of Damon’s career...Eastwood hasn’t worked out the movie emotionally...Peter Morgan, who wrote such shrewd and worldly movies as ‘The Queen’ and ‘Frost/Nixon,’ seems to have fallen into a trance himself...The bafflement that comes with loss is certainly a strong enough emotion to get a story moving, but, by turning to spiritualism, visions, and the afterlife, Morgan has wandered into hokum without illuminating grief. Most of the movie is not about what the dead mean to the living; it’s about having nice little chats with ghosts, and neither Eastwood nor Morgan has the taste for such flamboyant stuff. The two men have accomplished the questionable feat of domesticating the uncanny, and, in the process, they’ve lost their storytelling skills—the coincidences that bring the main characters together by the end are laughably unconvincing.” --DAVID DENBY, The New Yorker

“Clint Eastwood flirted with the supernatural in his allegorical Western ‘Pale Rider,’ but nothing in his career prepares us for his haunting and haunted ‘Hereafter,’ a bold, strange, problematic investigation into the nature of the afterlife. At 80, he continues to throw us curves, abandoning the safety of genre for an unconventionally structured story about mortality, loneliness, and the relationship between the living and the dead...Clearly, at this point in his life, questions of mortality aren’t far from Eastwood’s mind, and you can feel his identification with these characters, whose encounters with death both separate them from the rest of the living and give them a sense of urgent purpose. Damon, with his understated but deeply felt performance, and the wonderfully versatile De France supply the movie’s aching soul. And Eastwood keeps it honest. ‘Hereafter’ confronts a topic that could have descended into mawkish, mystical hokum, but not in Eastwood’s no-nonsense, uncynical hands. He looks at death, and beyond, with clear, open, inquisitive eyes.” –DAVID ANSEN, Newsweek

“While the emotional early scenes captivate— especially the masterful tsunami sequence—the flick’s second half falls apart. The three interlinked stories are each too shallow. What’s it like for Damon’s medium to hear voices and tell strangers truths about their loved ones? How does it feel for de France’s journalist to stop breathing, see figures in the light, then have friends discount her experience? These questions never get addressed in a satisfying way. Still, Damon shoulders his role with grace as an ordinary man with an uncomfortable gift. His work’s admirable, even if the film doesn’t fulfill its ambitions.” –THELMA ADAMS, Us Magazine/thelmadams.com

“Eastwood attempts to pose some lyrical, quasi-spiritual questions and comes up with an overboiled drama that’s merely boring. It’s hard to know how much of what’s wrong with ‘Hereafter’ stems from Morgan’s screenplay, which lacks the characteristic tartness (and brains) of other movies he’s written, like ‘The Queen’ and ‘Frost/Nixon.’  The picture’s faux-intricate structure doesn’t mask the reality that there’s just not much going on here. And the filmmaking choices Eastwood has made here range from merely misguided to numbingly dopey...Damon is more believable, and more likable, than anyone in a role like this ought to be. His solid casualness works in his favor, offsetting the movie’s airy, indistinct position on just what the afterlife might be like.”  --STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, Movieline

“An uneven but absorbing triptych of stories concerning the bonds between the living and the dead, the 80-year-old filmmaker's latest feature is a beguiling blend of the audacious and the familiar; it dances right on the edge of the ridiculous and at times even crosses over, but is armored against risibility by its deep pockets of emotion, sly humor and matter-of-fact approach to the fantastical...As though aware of the raised eyebrows that may greet his borderline-schlocky choice of material, Eastwood pauses midway through to register a healthy measure of skepticism; a montage shows one character consulting a series of psychics, every one of them a charlatan. Even still, we're meant to take it on faith that Damon's George is the real deal (his gifts are even given a biological explanation), and the film presents his frequent glimpses of the netherworld in an unquestioning manner that viewers will have to either accept or reject.”  --JUSTIN CHANG, Variety

“Clint Eastwood crafts a ‘Babel’ all his own with ‘Hereafter,’ a trifurcated tale of death, grief, and the great beyond that finds the director succumbing to eye-rolling corniness... unintentionally funny exposition mars entire portions of the film, which has everyone speak in such overtly meaningful ways that no genuine meaning emerges. ‘Death is not final, it's merely a beginning,’ intones a priest... Aside from Damon and Howard, the cast seems lost, and Eastwood's modest, somber direction is an awkward fit for Morgan's ham-fisted plotting and pathos, which abounds with tawdry elements (drug abuse, parental neglect, child molestation) that sensationalize rather than offer enlightening perspective on the themes at hand.”  --NICK SCHAGER, Slant Magazine

“Director Clint Eastwood stages that out-of-the-blue tsunami so that it moves like a glacier. Its creeping pace and gruesome details are just the beginning of Eastwood’s crushingly dull fatuousness...Between George’s religious doubt, Marie’s befuddlement and Marcus’ despair, ‘Hereafter’ takes its characters’ spiritual confusion about what’s on the other side of life and uses it to wax sentimental about loneliness and grief. As freaky-creepy as ‘Changeling’ where Eastwood combined mother-love with serial killing, it’s a lugubrious version of that old Saturday Night Live routine ‘Deep Thoughts.’ But ‘Hereafter’ is really full of half-thoughts. As with Woody Allen’s ‘You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger,’ it’s difficult to tell if this film confronts belief or if disbelief simply is being given the upper hand...Pretending profundity, Eastwood piles on bleak thoughts. His solemn heavy-handed method is so artless and inexpressive it's almost primitive ...Eastwood’s such an unimaginative hack, in love with his own obstinacy, that he keeps this pretense at exploring higher consciousness horror-movie dark...Have critics forgotten everything they valued in movies—pace, beauty, cogency, feeling—when it comes to Eastwood? Treating this dirge as a profound event demonstrates the cinema establishment’s willingness to stunt their own expectations and dreams by accepting Eastwood’s paltry cliches, his secular piety. George’s visions, like Marie’s experience of the afterlife, resemble cartoon metaphysics: bright light clouded by fuzzy silhouettes. It looks like a Ron Howard imitation of Spielberg. Given a subject that should be thrilling and full of awe, ‘Hereafter’ is cornball whenever it isn’t plain dull.”  --ARMOND WHITE, New York Press     

“Death is the barrier we can't get around, an eternal void burdening those among the living who yearn for those who are gone. What would it mean if we could communicate with the other side, or even just be sure it existed? That is the theme of the haunting ‘Hereafter’... Morgan's script turns out to be a fine match for Eastwood's fluid, unassuming directing style. His direct, unadorned approach pares everything down to its essence, the better to express the core of the narrative in the most direct and effective way possible. This is quiet but potent filmmaking that believes nothing is more important than the story it has to tell... Especially involving as always is Damon, convincing as an everyman torn by the kinds of conflicts few people have to deal with. Can peace be made between the here and the hereafter? It's a question that can't be answered, but few directors have the ability to explore the possibilities as gracefully as this singular filmmaker approaching his 80th year.”  --KENNETH TURAN, The Los Angeles Times

“The great philosopher Woody Allen once said, 'I do not believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.' For his foresight in travel planning, Allen deserves a discount from George (Matt Damon), a reluctant psychic in the cloudy and tremulous life-after-death drama ‘Hereafter.’ Much to his own dismay, George is the real thing...’Hereafter’ is embroidered with various small, specific, stand-alone scenes that zoom in on one or another member of this melancholy trio...But these episodes— especially a brief relationship between George and a flirty young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard)—don't so much accrue to a deeper understanding as pile up like a stack of sketches...And the signature Eastwoodian music that the director lays over the proceedings—piano tinkle, guitar pluck, and an echo of Rachmaninoff out of Noël Coward's ‘Brief Encounter’--can't hold the assemblage together. George, Marie, and Marcus have mortality on their minds. But ‘Hereafter’ doesn't make a convincing case that they needed to meet in the here-and-now.”  --LISA SCHWARZBAUM, Entertainment Weekly

“While you have to praise Eastwood for reaching so far, a lot of this material remains tantalizingly beyond his grasp. As the traumatized French woman, Cecile de France never engages us emotionally; the mourning child remains frustratingly remote. The director’s usual firm hand with storytelling and performance wavers. Coming off best here is Matt Damon, who brings genuine anguish to his portrayal of an unwilling psychic. Yet his character still feels a little familiar, and the director’s visuals of ‘the other side’—mostly pale blurry people, looming close to the camera—is similarly stale...This is is still—for a director whose work has been hit or miss lately, and sometimes overpraised by critics with man-crushes—a nagging disappointment. It’s meant to make us ask, ‘All right, what comes after?’ But it leaves real Eastwood fans only wondering, ‘Okay—what comes next?’” –STEPHEN WHITTY, The Star-Ledger

“Shifting gears to a softer, gauzier mood, Clint Eastwood's ‘Hereafter’ finds the masterful icon charting new terrain. Slavish fans of his rugged westerns, left-wing war canvases and kidney-punch gangster epics may be appalled to find him in a reflective frame of mind about life after death and the supernatural...It's a change of pace, but it exemplifies every carefully honed aspect of the treasured director's craft. Besides,  Mr. Eastwood has earned the right to make any kind of movie he wants (at unthinkable expense), and when a man reaches his midnight years, it's perfectly understandable that he starts contemplating the afterlife...The denouement seems contrived and not entirely comfortable, and I hoped for a more convincing finale from the astute Peter Morgan than the creaky and fractured ending pictured here...People expecting clever, arty editing or tricky camera movements will be almost as disappointed as those anticipating a smash ending with special effects...Still, there is plenty of excitement and pulse in ‘Hereafter,’ as well as a reluctance to provide easy answers to life's great mysteries. I'm happy to see a great director take on the challenge of new and different material with his customary grace and impressive two-fisted technique intact.”  --REX REED, The New York Observer

“‘Hereafter’ invites one to entertain the notions that there might be some form of consciousness after death and that communication across the divide could be possible. Granted, this is a hope as ancient as time and perhaps something that, the older one becomes, one would like to believe in...But the quality that is most becoming about the film is what I would call its healthy agnosticism. Eastwood and Morgan are not pushing an agenda of belief here, but neither are they out to debunk or scoff; nor, to their possible commercial detriment, are they intent upon tantalizing or spooking the audience n the manner of ‘The Sixth Sense.’ Instead, they are refreshingly open-minded on a subject it is easy to feel superior to but difficult to rule out with absolute certainty...However, after the long, intertwining build-up, a bit more is expected at the conclusion than is actually delivered, leaving the film with a relatively soft ending rather than delivering a sharp insight into the mysterious matters that have been gently explored for a couple of hours. On balance, Eastwood’s open, and open-minded, approach pays significant dividends, but putting a finer point on things might have provided not only a welcome dramatic jolt but provoked some residual pondering by viewers.”  --TODD McCARTHY, Deep Focus/indieWIRE

“’Hereafter’ occupies some muzzy twilight zone, too woo-woo sentimental to be real, too limp to make for even a halfway decent ghost story...My impression is that Eastwood—while revered by many as a premier auteur with a strong personal vision—picks scripts he likes and shoots them pretty much as they are; and when a script is, like Morgan’s, badly in need of a polish and minus a satisfying windup, he’ll shoot it anyway and figure the lapses will be viewed as powerful artistic choices attributable to his laid-back, jazz-inflected style.”—DAVID EDELSTEIN, New York Magazine

“Multiple story lines cross international borders to mix personal tragedy with post-9/11 existential terror: ’Hereafter’  is a mawkish mondo mistico, obvious, schematic, and sometimes subtitled...‘It’s not a gift, it’s a curse!” cries bashful George, around the time he fails to predict his layoff from the anonymous job he’s taken in a Bay Area factory. That his mercenary big brother keeps insisting that George’s ESP is more like a meal ticket is a hilarious, inadvertent comment on the folks hoping that grief and loss will sell tickets to a supernatural heartwarmer like ‘Hereafter’... ’Hereafter’ is not just a stretch for Eastwood, it’s a contortion. The irrationality of the premise is exceeded only by the strategic irrationalities of the plot... Action bathed in soothing, solemnly banal music (composed by the director),  ‘Hereafter’ dawdles along for 129 minutes, stopping frequently to smell the roses and wonder, where do all the lonely people come from?  --J. HOBERMAN, The Village Voice

“...a movie that opens with a sensational bang and then proceeds to pursue the Big Questions about life and death in lovely, lugubrious and increasingly off-putting fashion, until all its drama has been frittered away in a dreamy, drifty haze... ‘Hereafter’ is something like an M. Night Shyamalan movie in extreme slow motion ...Despite what you may read elsewhere, I detect no particular religious drive behind this movie. George's murky, milky visions of the afterlife are studiously nonsectarian, even agnostic. I have no problem, by the way, with a work of fiction that posits the existence of life after death or the Christian God or Satan or Vishnu or whatever you want; it's a movie, and whether or not I find its worldview plausible is pretty much irrelevant. But the dramatist has an obligation to make that worldview seem compelling, and to my taste the characters in ‘Hereafter’ melt away into a doleful gray mist, equal parts boredom and sadness, long before fate brings them together amid the high drama of a London book fair...Speaking personally, I only hope that if death is not the end, what lies beyond is more fun than ‘Hereafter.’”—ANDREW O’HEHIR, Salon.com

“In more than half a century of making movies, Clint Eastwood, 80, has sent many a varmint to his maker. ‘Hereafter’ is the first time he's showed any curiosity about what lies on the other side. It's typical of Eastwood's mastery as a director that his approach to the topic is introspective, not inflammatory...Eastwood hits narrative bumps on this atypical spiritual journey, as does politics-obsessed screenwriter Peter Morgan (‘The Queen,’ ‘Frost/Nixon’). No worries. It's exhilarating to watch these two talents explore new ground without bias or trendy cynicism. ‘Hereafter,’  set to a resonant Eastwood score, truly is haunting.”  --PETER TRAVERS, Rolling Stone

“Matt Damon is George, a spiritualist in spite of himself in ‘Hereafter,’ and one of three people in the film who have haunting connections with the afterlife. Unfortunately, Clint Eastwood's slow-paced drama has slack connections with the here and now...One problem that soon surfaces is the movie's certitude. No Turn-of-the-Screw-y ambiguities, no mind games about whether the three might share some all-too-human delusion. Either you buy their Vaseline-lensed visions of the hereafter, or you watch in stony silence, as I did, wondering why there's no one to care about.”  --JOE MORGENSTERN, The Wall Street Journal

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