Hereafter fails to live up to expectations

Clint Eastwood is a respected man in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. In recent years, he’s been dishing out powerful dramas with star-studded casts. Million Dollar Baby was a tear-jerker, Gran Torino exploited extreme racism, and Invictus was an inspiring tale. Eastwood’s most recent brainchild, Hereafter, continues with the drama, but can’t live up to to the quality of its predecessors.

Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of the movie, despite it’s being the newest project of one of Hollywood’s elite. There was almost no advance advertising, and movie trailers didn’t go public until recently. The only familiar cast member is Matt Damon, who delivers a less-than-phenomenal performance that can’t live up to the very high expectations set by his past work. While the trailer may have excited viewers with two-and-a-half minutes of thrilling drama, this movie was better as a preview than as a feature film.

The movie starts and immediately gets into the thick of the action. Within the first five minutes, French journalist Marie Lelay is swept away by a tsunami while shopping at a Hawaiian market. She is knocked unconscious,
and floats limp underwater. She is resuscitated only after she “sees the white light.” She returns to work, but is obviously traumatized by her experiences. Following a suggestion from her boss/lover, she takes some time off to write a book about the hereafter, life after death. On a side note, if you plan on seeing the movie, expect to do a lot of reading: A good 30 minutes of the film is spoken in French and is subtitled.

Running parallel is the life of George Lonegan (played by Matt Damon), a truly gifted psychic who is trying to live a normal life after giving up spiritual readings as a profession. However, his talent is undeniable, and he ends up performing several other readings, which take their toll on him. He takes up a cooking class to get his mind on other things, but is brought back to his past by a woman he meets there. She convinces him, despite his reluctance, to do a reading on her. After she acquires some horrifying details, she disappears from his life. This is a shame because Eastwood seamlessly eases her into the film, but then abruptly erases her from the script.

The third parallel story involves Marcus, a young schoolboy from London. He and his twin brother Jason work together to protect their alcoholic mother and themselves from Social Services, who make guest appearances at all the wrong times. While trying to run away from bullies one day, Jason is hit by a car and dies. Marcus, not ready to give up his brother and best friend, roams the city in search of mediums. Eastwood throws in some subtle comedy by suggesting many psychics are scams, but Marcus comes across George at a London book fair. George eventually caves in, communicates with Jason, and delivers some emotional words to Marcus.

In short summary, Hereafter is one of those movies where three separate, unrelated lives share a connection unbeknownst to them. In the end, they all come together and share in their mutual misery, right? Well, the stories hardly overlap. George interacts with Marie for two scenes, George and Marcus have two exchanges, and Marie and Marcus never cross paths (except for being in the same building at one time).

There were a lot of expectations and high hopes for the film, but it just didn’t pack a punch. Though seemingly contradictory, the movie was both too fast and too slow. Overall, it moved at a very slow pace, taking at least an hour and a half for the three stories to overlap geographically. But at the same time, in crucial scenes, the cuts were too abrupt and the dialogue exchanges too quick. The script could have used a revision, and the acting failed to deliver consistently. However, the idea is fresh and new and, if for nothing else, people should watch the movie for some attractive cinematography.