Three personal histories, separated by continents and time zones, seemingly disconnected but linked by power, emotion and otherworldly connections.
French reporter Marie Lelay has a near-death experience and finds herself questioning what comes after life has ended. In London, Marcus’s twin brother is knocked down and killed in the street, leaving his sibling bereft and adrift. And in San Francisco, George Lonegan hides himself away in a blue-collar job, desperate to escape his calling: he is a psychic.
Clint Eastwood’s latest is a measured look at the big question that affects everyone at some time or another. For George (Matt Damon), scarred by his experiences, life as an anonymous nobody is preferable to being the focus of grieving families’ attention. “It’s not a gift,” he tells his brother, “It’s a curse. I feel like a freak.”
The anthology approach to the subject matter is interesting because, ultimately, it does not succeed. Hereafter builds to a (hoped-for) climax in which one expects the various hopes and desires of the three central characters to be realised.
For Marie, it is for her to be recognised and not shunned. For Marcus, it is to communicate with his brother. For George, it is to feel like a normal human being – to be loved as a regular guy. All three are seeking something. Their joint experiences thrust them together for a shared answer.
Damon once again essays an ordinary man whose gifts have forever tainted his life. Yet the lack of dynamism about George only serves to further undermine what little drama there is. FrankieMcLaren, playing Marcus, should have the most sympathetic role – junkie mother, dead brother, facing a life in foster care – but his lack of acting experience is painfully evident.
Which leaves Cécile de France as the centrepiece, a crusading journalist whose news sense takes a back seat when her visions collide with normal life. Her moment of clarity comes via a euthanasia clinic and a doctor (Marthe Keller) who gleefully hands over a sheaf of documents as evidence of the hereafter.
What becomes clear in watching Hereafter is that this is not Eastwood’s milieu. He’s clearly out of his comfort zone. The globe-trotting narrative and multi-plotting device serve only to slow an already sluggish storyline that at times comes close to ponderous.
And, crucially, the denouement throws up no great drama, no big revelation. Instead the final credits roll over a damp squib of an ending that seems to suggest that no answers can be presented because, clearly, no-one knows what the answers are.