Pink Fire Pointer Hereafter ► 4.5 / 5 (Eastwood's Hollywood)

Hereafter ► 4.5 / 5 (Eastwood's Hollywood)

[your rating for the movie]

  A light at the end of a tunnel.. or a tunnel /staircase into the light.. people dressed in white.. being weightless, a sense of the omniscient or omnipotence, sensing the purpose of life.. or more dramatically, seeing your life in flashbacks..  are some of the common metaphors, idioms or beliefs about death that exist in our culture and they are as old as humanity itself. It is quite cliché to delve into those questions again, esp. through a film. However, Clint Eastwood, knowing all the tricks of the game, changes only the rules.

  I hate myself for having missed it on the big screen and chose to see the wretched 'Drive Angry (3D sic!)' last month. I was in mood for an action-entertainer while purchasing the tickets for it, despite the guilty feeling for missing the latest offering by Eastwood and Matt Damon to boot! Their previous venture being the insurmountable 'Invictus', I surely must have lost my senses to have done what I did. I now pay for it. There are many glorious scenes and beautiful shots that would have held me enthralled on a big screen. I know because I savored them on the simple DVD, and only kept kicking myself for how much more could they have been.

  I have to tip-toe around this movie plot because every moment and scene unfolds gently, but unexpectedly. 'Hereafter' starts wonderfully and devastatingly, with a french couple, Didier (Thierry Neuvic) and Marie Lelay (Cécile De France) in a vacation at an island resort. It moves onto the central character of the plot, George Lonegan (Matt Damon), in his simple life as a blue-collar worker and his brother Billy (Jay Mohr).

  Billy believes George is gifted. He can connect telepathically or so it seems, with people's beloved but dead ones. George respectfully disagrees and feels himself a freak, and the gift a curse. In his quest for a normal life and relationships, George does things as normally as he could. He doesn't do "readings" to anyone anymore. He shuts down his psychic website and other paraphernalia associated with his psychic ability - we come to know all this through conversations he has with the few people around him. Notably, one wonderful beauty enters his life in Melanie, played as ethereally and wonderfully as always by Bryce Dallas Howard.

  They cook some Italian cuisine and romance as partners in the cooking class. All of it is, ofcourse, handled in Eastwood style, so you get neither an overdose of sentimentality nor the flightiness of a chick-flick. He adds just the right ingredients. Simultaneously, there runs a story of two wonderful and spunky little twins in London. Jason, the older one by 12 mins (he tells anyone who cares to know), and Marcus the younger. These kids (Frankie & George McLaren) are fatherless, with a mother who is addicted to opiates and other stuff.

 They keep order at home and the wolf, among other things the child-services, literally, at the door. An awful incident occurs in this semi-dysfunctional home which sustains the thread and the idea of what this film is about. George despite his reservations, succumbs to pressures from his loved ones to "read" or connect with the loved ones of a few people. Melanie from his cooking class among them.

  The plot steadily evolves and weaves, these three relationships and people involved, into a space-time event. Along the way, the movie raises questions about George's ability. Is it super-natural or a medical illness (encephalomyelitis)? Is he able to read the sub-conscious signals off a person sub-consciously? What is the true nature of death or the near-death experience NDE? Do not expect this movie to answer them, and that is the wonder of it. Eastwood knows he is telling the story of people encountering the super-natural and the undefinable. To try defining it would belittle the experiences these people undergo in their lives. When a movie gives us a satisfactory answer, it entertains us. When it gives us an unsatisfactory question, it enthralls. Roger Ebert, a critic I admire most, says he envies Eastwood as he ages and would wish to be him as he gets older. Concurred Mr.Ebert. Clint is a fine wine indeed.

Death : a transition or a shut-down?

** Spoilers ahead ** (strictly for those who've seen the movie)

  Written by Peter Morgan ( story/screenplay for Frost/Nixon, The Queen, Last King of Scotland etc. ), the movie is a brilliant story-telling on a simple premise. Unlike Crash, the film doesn't weave a sophisticated web to weave the characters into each other. Things occur as a matter of fact. Everyone suits and does their role well. What is common to all of them is the loss, as they all encounter death. For George- his loss of normalcy, Melanie- her loss of pretense, Marie- her loss of cynicism, Marcus- loss of an indecision and a guardian. 

  The reason I would like to discuss the finalé of the film is due to the various opinions about, that the movie doesn't have any view-point. Although, it doesn't provide answers, it stays pretty clear on what happens to these characters. There can be no doubt as to what George does lies outside the purview of  today's Science. Marie begins to doubt her doubtfulness after encountering the 'Hereafter' . Her belief, fueled by her research into NDE, she even demands others to begin believing the phenomenon. I was slightly dissatisfied with how she gets away with that. There could have been a deeper conflict shown, she being the cynical and famous journalist et al. 

  The strength of the movie lies with George's portrayal and Marcus' search for a way to connect with his guardian brother. The climactic moment of George getting a psychic vision of the Life with Marie, in contrast to only the dead ones he'd connected with thus far, is the Genius of the film. She is the one, meant for  him, and they could sense it the moment they lie eyes on each other. What had been a curse so far, turns into a gift with her. That is the perfect ending to a beautiful story. It doesn't matter to either Marie or George that they'd had NDE or psychic experiences in the past but the present and the future holds a wonderful promise. If there's any message, it is this : death may trouble and haunt, but love of the living is what this life is all about and makes it bearable.

Highly Recommended 4.5 / 5  (catch it on a big screen if you're lucky to have one playing nearby)