Oh, Clint, how you disappoint me. I’d read a lot of bad reviews for Hereafter, yet I still went to see it with a little bit of hope that people were being a little too cynical. But they were right. Not only is it disappointing coming from Clint Eastwood (and executively produced by Steven Spielberg), it is also pretty bad.
The film starts with French reporter Marie (Cécile de France) in Thailand, when the tsunami happens, and she has a near death experience. As an opening to a film, it’s not bad. The acting isn’t great, and I wasn’t too convinced by the French dialogue, and the effects of the tsunami weren’t very good, and given what people are used to in this day and age, its not really acceptable. But I was willing to forgive all that, if the remainder could make up for it. The problem is, it doesn’t think it needs to. We then have an awful cut to ‘Port of San Francisco’ (I’ll come back to the editing later) where we are introduced to real deal psychic George, played by Matt Damon. For a pyschic who is adamant on not doing any more readings, he gives in quite easily three times.
Matt Damon is good as George, but I think its more a case of a good actor doing the best he can with bad writing and directing. He’s the one good thing about Hereafter.
The last story is about a boy, Marcus, in London whose twin brother gets hit by a car and dies, and then his already druggie mother gets worse, goes into rehab, so he has to go into foster care. This part of the film is quite sad, but the kid’s acting is terrible, so you don’t really feel sorry for him. And I tried really hard to. I guess they didn’t have many choices in terms of twin actors. Maybe its the accents, but everyone in the London part of the story was painful to watch. I’m sure no one talks like that in British films. Surely they could have found a better British actress to play the role of the mother. Someone better known. If they got Bryce Dallas Howard to do two scenes, they could have got someone better than Lyndsey Marshall to do three.
The movie could have easily come under two hours (over nine minutes shorter) if the editors (Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach) had worked a little harder. Shots are too long by seconds, things you don’t need to see. And some are unnecessary. Matt Damon running home? The running wasn’t necessary, and if he was in his apartment, we’d understand he got there like a normal human, and not teleporting. And him in the shower? Either do it properly, and show something for the women and the gays or don’t bother. And oh dear lord, the accident scene. The car actually hitting the twin brother takes a good few seconds. There is no impact of it being a sudden thing. He runs into the road, looks at the van, then does his scared face. Then you see the driver go into his scare face, and there is still seconds till he is hit. It should have been snappier. I hate editing, but I wanted to take the film, and just cut it down a bit. The length actually wasn’t a problem. If there was more to fit into the 129 minutes, it would have still been fine, but time actually is wasted.
Part of the problem is the three story lines are forced together. There isn’t really a connection at all. The ending [MAJOR SPOILERS MAJOR SPOILERS] with the out of the blue love story with George and Marie, has nothing at all to do with the film. Just because she had visions, and wrote a book means George can hold her hand without making a connection with her dead relatives? And he really wrote a four page love letter in the lobby of her hotel? And while George and Marcus meeting works for Marcus’ story, it feels more like a spin-off where Matt Damon makes a cameo. George’s story has been going nowhere for a while by this point. [SPOILER OVER]
Without the whole character of Marie and story around her, the film could have worked better. Firstly, being the first film to deal with the 2004 tsunami, it moves on very quickly. I don’t expect them to have made the whole film about it, but for something that big, they just lightly brush the topic. Also, bits of her story are just odd. Like discussing the afterlife on a staircase in a restaurant. Wait till you get to the table. That’s both terrible writing and terrible direction. It feels so unrealistic. I’m not saying no one has ever done that, but in a film, it’s just wrong.
At some point, churning out a film a year was going to result in a bad one. I mean, look at Woody Allen’s track record. Its such a shame that the bad one had to be this though. The idea is very good, and with reworking the script, changing some actors, removing plot lines, it could have been magnificent. Instead, it is a nice idea that is executed badly.