22 February 2011

Movies: after.life

A young woman, an elementary teacher, dies in a car accident. She wakes in the mortuary. As the funeral director sews the gash in her head (which she can't feel) he tells her he has a gift which allows him to talk to the dead, to help them transition to the beyond.  She doesn't believe she is dead and tries to escape the funeral home.  Meanwhile her fiancée, who thought she was dead, has trouble letting go and begins to think she is alive after all, so tries to get in to the funeral home to rescue her.
A drama/mystery/thriller starring Liam Neeson as the funeral director, Christina Ricci as the dead girl, Justin Long as her fiancée.

One of those mind twisty types of thrillers, which keeps the viewer wondering is she dead? is she alive? is the funeral director for real or a psychopath? You wonder what is going on all through the whole flick. It isn't that the story loses the viewer, goes haywire or runs off the rails or anything - you're left wondering because that's the whole point.

Some crazy visual effects at times too. Good use of color and stark contrasts.  Good performances around, including the kid playing the odd student of hers. And good to see Christina Ricci not playing a manic-pixie-dream-girl (MPDG), even though she's physically suited for such roles. I like that she takes on the meatier character roles from time to time.

I liked it - partly because I can't immediately think of any film similar to it. It is creepy, it makes you try to figure out what is going on throughout the film, and by the end of the flick everything isn't tied up neatly - or is it?  The answers to your questions aren't served up on a slab.  You have to think about it.  

I liked this film about post-death a lot more than 'The Lovely Bones'. Yes TLB had a creepy psycho dude in it and the girl was dead for sure and all, but TLB was also all young girl coming of age gooey sweetness beautiful afterlife stuff despite the creepy dude.  Even 'What Dreams May Come' had darkness to contrast the bright heavenly hereafter.  after.life wasn't the gooey sweetness of the hereafter - it was the unsettling limbo between life and death, or a psychopath's hell on earth, however the story works out.  It relied on the characters and their interactions to drive the story, not a bunch of CGI caricature of every cheap supernatural film crap. The story felt like it could happen in our world, teetering on the edge between a supernatural gift or psychopathic hell. It avoids being a postmortem fantasy flick that has ghosts popping through walls and dragging people's lungs through their nose or people seeing flying unicorns farting rainbows in the gloriously brightly lit hereafter. 

One of those flicks I wouldn't mind seeing again in a couple years to see how it withstands the test of time.  I like that it seemed fresh and not a rehash of something everyone else has already done.

(original post 22 Nov 2010)

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