Probably the most under-appreciated movie of the year, Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" is a very thoughtful film that demands our personal reflection. It asks many questions on the mysteries surrounding life and death, and life after death. But these topics aren't presented in an "in-your-face" sort of way (in fact, religion never comes into play with them); instead, they are left to self-interpretation. "Hereafter" ultimately asks you to reevaluate your faith and beliefs. Being an agnostic born into a Christian family, this was the perfect film for me. Not only did it make me wonder, but it also made me widen my scope of the world around me.
Hereafter is a drama that focuses on three people in different corners of the world, who all "confront" death in different ways. George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a construction worker who reluctantly uses his psychic ability to help people talk to their deceased loved-ones; Marie LeLay (Cécile De France) is a French journalist who sees everything in a new light after having a near-death experience; and Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren) is a young boy in London who loses the person closest to him and seeks answers regarding death and spirituality.
The acting in the film is generally quite impressive. Matt Damon, as always, is good as the top billed actor (though the film uses an ensemble cast where the characters have an even amount of screen time). Even better is Cécile De France, a foreign actress known for French films such as the thriller "High Tension". I was also surprised by Bryce Dallas Howard, who wasn't bad at all. However, the one performance that shines brighter than any other is actually from a minor character. Lyndsey Marshal, the British actress who plays the alcoholic mother of the two little boys, is phenomenal. For the 5-10 minutes of screen time she has in this film, she is incredibly convincing. Everything she says is deep and heartfelt. I'm hoping that she snags an acting nomination at next year's Academy Awards, the same way that Viola Davis did for "Doubt". The only performance that didn't impress me too much was that of the little boy Marcus. At times, it felt like he was reading what he was saying off a piece of paper. But he wasn't bad. His performance was still above-average for a kid.
Enough about acting. Time to talk about Clint. At 80 years old, Clint Eastwood never ceases to amaze me. He offers some of the most beautiful direction of the year in "Hereafter". With the story taking place in different corners of the world, he incorporates some beautiful shots of the different landscapes and cityscapes. I liked how he recycled many camera movements used in his film "Mystic River". They still created a great emotional effect. Speaking of Clint, I'm really looking forward to his next film, "Hoover". I would love to see what could be done in a film where Clint Eastwood directs, Leonardo DiCaprio acts, and Dustin Lance Black writes. I can't wait!
Lastly, it would be a crime to leave out Peter Morgan of the whole picture. The writer of critical hits such as "The Queen", "Frost/Nixon", and "The Last King of Scotland", Peter Morgan is the man behind the smart, reflective screenplay of "Hereafter". Though a little flawed, his most recent screenplay is extremely compelling and humane. There were so many bits of dialogue that I was able to retain from the film.
Overall, "Hereafter" is a very intriguing work of art that focuses on an intelligent and engaging subject for once. With so many mindless movies out in theaters now (*ahem* "JACKASS 3-D"), this movie comes across as a breath of fresh air. So, WHY ISN'T "HEREAFTER" A CRITICAL HIT? WHY IS THERE SUCH A DIVISION IN ITS CRITICAL AND PUBLIC RECEPTIONS? I'll never know the answer to these questions. The only thing I'm certain of is that this is a must-see for anybody, especially for any fan of Clint's incredible body of work. DON'T listen to the reviews; buy a ticket to this with an open mind.