Every now and then you watch a movie and from the very first minute you are sucked into the story. This time, I even forgot to touch my drink during the full 129 minutes of the film, felt tears coming to my eyes several times and at the end I sat through the credits feeling numb and reluctant to leave the room. That seldom happens with me but it did with Hereafter, a film starring Matt Damon and directed by Clint Eastwood, who produced it together with Steven Spielberg.
There have been other movies exploring the theme of the after life, e.g. What Dreams May Come, The Lovely Bones and Ghost, but Hereafter touches you in a different way because it is weaving real life events, e.g. the 2004 tsunami hitting Thailand and the 2005 bombings of the London underground, with various spiritual themes.
The film also has a romantic dimension, with the two main characters both longing for love in their life, but it doesn’t shy away from including some critical notes either, e.g. showing how people are being hoaxed when it comes to contacting dear ones that passed away or how mainstream media and society at large are dealing with the subject of (life after) death.
What particularly struck me however was that every scene in Hereafteris so balanced and perfect in its own way. They each contain a short story in them self. This makes that you enjoy every minute of the movie and I personally find the IMDB rating of 6.5/10 on the low side. But I am probably biased because I feel such a resonance with the theme of the movie as my post 3 Steps To Remove Your Fear Of Dying shows.
A story about the hereafter, but also about living
The film explores the mystery of the “hereafter” using three different angles and story lines.
The first angle and story line starts with Marie Lelay (beautifully played by Cécile de France), a French TV journalist who is on vacation in Thailand with her boss. When the tsunami hits the village she has to run for her life. (Having seen video’s from last week’s events in Japan, this opening scene is extremely realistic and lending immediate credibility to the rest of the film). Marie initially drowns but is reanimated and this near death experience changes her personal and professional life. Because of the “after effects” she loses both her high profile job and relationship. She then decides to research and write a book about near death experiences.
The second angle and story line is about a young boy, Marcus, who loses his twin brother, Jason, in a tragic accident and who has a very hard time coping with this loss. He sets out on a journey to find someone who can help him to get in touch with his brother.
This is the story line where you will definitely feel the tears in your eyes, especially when Marcus finally reconnects with his brother who describes to him the “other side” from a child’s perspective, which is very funny. But Jason also has an important message, not only for Marcus but for all who lost someone dear and can’t let go.
The third angle and story line is about George Lonegan (Matt Damon) a guy who, as a result of a severe illness and almost failed operation during his childhood, is able to connect with the dead. Having been a successful medium he now wants to lead an ordinary life because his “gift” has become more like a curse.
This is shown in a very moving scene in which Melanie, a woman who Georges just met and feels very much attracted to, accidentally overhears a voicemail message and learns about his past. She insists that he does a reading for her, which he reluctantly agrees to, only to be confronted with something from her own past that she feels so embarrassed about that she can no longer see him. It proofs to him that he has to make a clean break and he decides to take a vacation only to find that his past continues to haunt him.
Living and enjoying life
As I said, the story is not only about the hereafter but also about living. This is illustrated in a beautiful metaphor when Melanie and George are attending an Italian cooking class. The chef starts with a glass of wine as a “warming up”, turns on some opera music and then invites the students to taste various ingredients with a blindfold in order to reconnect with their senses and experience food in a different, more conscious way.
I was so inspired by this scene that afterwards I immediately bought myself a bottle of Chianti Classico and some Italian food for dinner; but then again I am a sucker 🙂 when it comes to Italian food as you know from my review of Eat Prey Love. The movie is full of reminders like these not to forget to live and enjoy life.
Even if you are not so interested in the theme of the movie you will still thoroughly enjoy it. The film is very well made, the drama parts both convincing and balanced and you will be entertained each and every minute. For those that are interested, the film has plenty of spiritual messages and life lessons but these are shared in a gentle, unobtrusive way.
How the three story lines eventually come together you will have to see for yourself, but I am sure that you will agree with Shakespeare: All’s well that ends well…