By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2010--EASTWOOD'S 'HEREAFTER'  Send This Review to a Friend

When I croak it will be end of story. I don’t believe in heaven or hell and psychics who can communicate with the dead. That will be it for me—over and out. That said, I was still fascinated by director Clint Eastwood’s exploration of the potential of something beyond mortality in “Hereafter,” shown at the 2010 New York Film Festival after being showcased at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. The achievement demonstrates Eastwood’s filmmaking prowess. He knows how to tell a story, and he exhibits good judgment, good taste and steady craftsmanship. This is an unusual work that further reflects his maturity as a director.

Peter Morgan has written a screenplay that provides an engrossing, intelligent framework. The casting is letter-perfect. Matt Damon plays George Lonegan, who has psychic gifts that can earn him a good living. But he has become fed up with dealing with death and finds that his life is being ruined by the profession, from which he retreats, even though his ambitious brother, energetically played by Jay Mohr, wants him to continue and make money for both of them.

Cécile de France portrays Marie Lelay, a television journalist who nearly dies while on vacation when a tsunami, spectacularly depicted at the outset of the film, engulfs her. She is convinced that she had an outer body experience when she saw what it would be like to be dead before she was revived. The episode has made a deep, lasting impression that could change her life.

There is also the story of twin brothers, Marcus and Jason, appealingly acted by Frankie and George McClaren. When one brother is killed in an accident, the other is so shaken that he can’t live a normal existence. This part of the film is exceedingly touching and carries a strong emotional impact.

The careful plotting brings these stories together in a convincing manner, a tribute to the filmmaking, as it would be so easy to make everything look like merely a contrivance. But although coincidental, one can accept that such coincidences could happen.

Along the way, there are entertaining situations, as when Lonegan takes a cooking class, colorfully shown down to the slicing and dicing. Bryce Dallas Howard is attractive as classmate Melanie, and the interplay between the two is both flirtatious and filled with sexual promise. Lonegan tries to hide his gift because he knows it can ruin a relationship, but Melanie pressures him to tell about himself and then try his psychic ability on her. He and we know that it will ruin everything.

The film is beautifully shot, with excellent use of locations. I particularly liked the scenes in the May Fair Hotel in London, for that is where my wife and I have been staying on our London trips, and the contemporary look has been nicely captured, as is the case with any number of places in which the story unfolds.

Remember the old advertising slogan “You don’t have to be Jewish to like Levy’s rye”? Well you don’t have to believe in the hereafter to enjoy Eastwood’s contemplation of it. A Warner Brothers Pictures release.

  

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