Film material that discusses the possibilities of afterlife is never easy akin to tiptoeing on the tip of an iceberg, easily susceptible to falling either way. Clint Eastwood has envisioned his film with warm tenderness and affection that doesn't entice audience to get defensive over the subject issue. Instead, the idea is to focus on living while embracing an inevitable end we call death.
"Hereafter" tells the story of three people who are haunted by mortality in different ways. Matt Damon stars as George, a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. On the other side of the world, Marie (Cécile de France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren), a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might - or must - exist in the hereafter.
Clint Eastwood has a glorious past in the film business and is currently still hard at it despite his ripe age of 81. Eastwood is a man who allows his lifelong experience to benefit his films, with a fine vision of how afterlife should be tackled on the big screen in "Hereafter".
Highly associated with religious themes and controversially sensitive as a morbid topic, he attempts to avoid those by not tackling the question of afterlife possibilities head on but instead optimistically dwells in the present by reminding us how we should focus on living over being obsessed by death.
Death isn't just an unspeakable noun among us, but also a subject of curiosity to several of us who've always pondered what's beyond death. In fact, nobody probably knows for sure although we've been hearing matching primary accounts of those who've encountered a near-death experience. It usually involves white lights and a sense of weightlessness and serenity.
Because of this curiosity for what comes after the end, some of us have come to fear death itself. Often we fall into an obsession for an answer to something that is highly illusive, we tend to forget what is important and real.
The process of leading a normal and blissful life.
Here in Eastwood's film, we see three stories in seek of the higher ground when it comes to searching the truth behind the much discussed afterlife. George is a psychic who is "gifted" with special abilities to connect with departed souls that mattered to the people he touches. Others view it as an exciting possibility but to him, it's a curse. Very well said by George in the film:
A life about death is no life at all.
Marie is someone who has never entered such state of spiritualism prior as a capitalist journalist who's career is a much power-driven one. During her devastating experience with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (which is a powerful opening to this film), she emerges a changed person who has fascinations of her brush with death and needs to seek a closure for that. Likewise for Marcus, he is lost when his brother left him unexpectedly and attempts to discover what lies in fate ahead of his brother upon his death.
The three stories, as anticipated by most, will converge towards the end where they provide one another some form of closure to their situations. Mostly for the better it seems. I'll not divulge what exactly happened to avoid spoilers, but in my opinion though the collision of the three stories is a must, it isn't all that satisfying as a finale.
Nevertheless, Eastwood's take on afterlife is so surprisingly full of life with a high degree of human touch and affection that it makes you appreciate life so much more where it is portrayed as something so fragile. You'll never know when death comes knocking at your doorstep, so instead of worrying life with death, embrace death and live to the fullest.
We know that Eastwood has a rich life experience through his films of late with the amount of authenticity he adds to them. One fine scene in "Hereafter" that I really liked is of George bringing his new female friend Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) to his apartment for dinner and how his psychic gift places a strain on their relationship. The entire process shown in that one scene was so convincing and something I'd totally expect in real life.
Death is probably something dear to Eastwood at his current age, as I reckon most people at old age do think about it no matter how optimistic one is. Therefore, this film is a statement of how he deals with it and hopes others will do similar too. Through this film material, I hope Eastwood gains some form of enlightening closure and continue to make films like there's no tomorrow.
Just like how it probably haunts Eastwood, "Hereafter" will appeal to you as a hauntingly beautiful piece of film work that doesn't offer you a resolved closure to dealing with death and afterlife but rather helps you by leaving you to it when you walk out of the theatre.