Hereafter… For The Believers
By Sumaya Samarasinghe
The only certainty a human being has in life is that one day, he or she will die.
Some will be taken away too young, others will suffer tragic deaths while the fortunate ones will grow older though decaying bodies and loneliness as your loved ones pass away hardly seems like an enticing prospect to live a long life!
For a handful of lucky ones, age means nothing and despite turning 80, actor/director Clint Eastwood has once again surprised many with the theme of his latest film Hereafter which is his version of what ‘may’ happen after death.
Though Matt Damon’s face covers the entire poster of the film, probably more for marketing purposes than anything else, he is actually one of the three main characters of Hereafter. The film follows the story of three separate people who have had to deal with death, grief and loss. Never does Eastwood impose an idea on his viewers nor does he claim to know exactly what happens ‘next’ and offer a textbook explanation of the afterlife.
The film begins with a chilling tsunami sequence in an Indonesian beach town. Marie (Cecile de France) is a well known French television journalist who is on holiday with her married lover and colleague Didier. Set to leave in a few hours, she reminds him that he has to go and buy presents for his kids. When he shows little motivation to do so, Marie sets of to do the shopping and while she is purchasing some souvenirs, the gigantic wave swallows her up. She is pulled out of the water by a rescue team and left for dead. But while she is being given CPR, we experience what she sees: bright lights and the image of the mother and daughter who ran the little souvenir stand.
Suddenly Marie begins to cough up water and revive. Later, she and Didier return to Paris. But soon, this life altering experience begins to interfere with her day to day work and she is ‘advised’ by Didier who is also her producer, to take a leave of absence and concentrate on the book she wanted to write on former French President Francois Mitterand. This political novel will never see light of day as Marie becomes determined to publish something on her near death experience and the afterlife.
George, played by Matt Damon, is a reluctant medium and somewhat of a dull human being. Spirits communicate through him, but he cannot talk to them. He has stopped taking clients and lives a lonely and quiet life as a factory worker. His idea of fun is to listen to audio books of Charles Dickens’ stories of whom he is a huge fan and in an attempt to develop his semi dead social life, he enrolls in an Italian cooking class. His cooking partner Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) quickly puts the moves on him. While the two are getting ready for a plausible romantic evening, Melanie overhears a message from Billy, George’s brother pressing him to begin taking clients again.
Melanie gets curious and begs a reluctant George to do a reading. He finally accepts and contacts the spirit of Melanie’s dead father who asks her for forgiveness for what he had “done” to her during her youth and naturally this ruins their relationship and she never returns to the cooking class again. The third story is probably the most touching of all. Marcus and Jason are 12 year old twins living in London. Their main job is to prevent social services from taking them away from their alcoholic, heroin addicted mother whom they love deeply. One day while going to pick up a detox drug from the pharmacy for their mother, Jason is knocked down by a van and killed. From that day onwards, Marcus wears his deceased brother’s hat and is sent to foster homes.
Lonely and unable to cope with the death of his brother, a rather amusing sequence shows the little boy go from medium to medium (all of whom end up being frauds); in a desperate attempt to contact his twin, until he finally sets his goals on George.
Eastwood manages to brightly connect the three stories at the London Book Fair where Marie is reading from her book: Hereafter, George who has been laid off from his factory job is visiting London and Marcus is aimlessly wandering around at first before he bumps into George.
Some cynical beings will probably call Hereafter Eastwood’s very own fairy tale, once again there are no impositions from the director except perhaps for one message and that is to enjoy every moment as it only takes a few seconds for life to change completely.
A movie filled with class!