17 April 2011

Movies: Hereafter

Hereafter (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1212419/

Fantasy/Drama that gives us three stories revolving around three people's involvement with death. 

Stars Matt Damon, Cecile De France (if you've seen High Tension you might recognize her), twins Frankie and George McLaren as the primary cast at the core of the film. Includes a bit of Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard and Richard Kind. Directed by Clint Eastwood.  Granted Ms. De France and the McLaren twins are probably the most obscure, but they hold their own in the production.

The first story revolves around George Lonegan (Matt Damon), a man that used to be a psychic of sorts- specifically he could touch somebody and then talk to the dead folks special to them. He quit that business - it was too much for him mentally and emotionally and his ability is not a gift for him, it's a curse. His brother keeps pushing him to get back into the business, mostly because Lonegan made a lot of money when he did the psychic bit and the brother wants to get back on that ride.  Lonegan is lonely, he has trouble connecting with people because once they figure out who he is they want a reading, and then if he gives them one it isn't necessarily what they want to hear and they tend to run off.
The second story revolves around Marie Lelay (De France), a hard-hitting television reporter that barely survives a tsunami. She died, momentarily, during the tsunami before being rescued and revived. During her 'death' she came in contact with the other side.  After she returns home her work life is affected as a result so she takes time off to write a book. Only the book she writes isn't the one she plans, she ends up exploring her 'brush with the afterlife' experience.
The third story revolves around twins Marcus and Jason (the McLaren twins).  One dies, the other is lost without his brother, and is seeking out some way to contact him again. To feel whole again.

We get snatches of each story as they move to the inevitable intersection of their lives.
But even though we know from the outset that because we're shown these three stories, taking place in the US, France and Britain, ultimately they will intersect somehow near the end, that isn't a disappointment. The film isn't one to watch for surprises so much as it is one to watch to explore the lives of these people and the impacts events have upon them.

One thing I liked about this film was its treatment of Lonegan and his struggle with his ability.  In the film's world he's the real deal in an ocean of fakes. He hates that he can't escape the ability and it's destroying of his life. The film drives home that he's the real deal by contrasting him with the "cold reading" method employed by bullshit psychics (like John Edward) out there.  Lonegan tells folks exactly what the dead tell him, only allowing his subject to say 'yes or no' in response. Cold readers - they fish around generically until they get a hit. Granted the film exaggerates 'cold reading' with a clumsy example, but it isn't inaccurate - just exaggerated for the audience to see the difference.

I also appreciated that the film brings the three stories together in a way that doesn't ring false. The paths they all take to where they come together make sense within the establishment of the characters and their motivations.

Considering I had high expectations just seeing who made the movie, in cast and in the director, I could've set myself up to be disappointed. In the end I felt it delivered quite nicely on the expectation.  Great technical moviemaking including the eye-popping special effects at the start of the film, good tripod of stories, good acting by the cast, a slightly predictable but acceptable end.

Aside from the excitement at the opening moments of the film, the film generally moves at an easy pace that almost borders on plodding, but not quite. It keeps moving by switching focus between the stories, which leaves you hanging and keeps you interested when it starts up again. Had it not switched up the way it did it probably would've felt like it slogged along.  Strong performances by the cast really drive the film forward too. Any failure in casting would've derailed this film. 

I enjoyed the film. If you like good character dramas that aren't melodramas it's a good watch. If you need a breather between action flicks, horror flicks, comedies and action-horror-comedies, it's worth a viewing. Even if one is skeptical of psychics and/or an afterlife one can enjoy the film - because it's a good fantasy story acted by a good cast backed by a good director.

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