You will meet a tall, dark psychic in the Hereafter. Clint Eastwood has done it again and adds to his film hit-list by creating another gifted genre movie about an uneasy psychic George Lonegan (Matt Damon). Peter Morgan’s screenplay fares well under Eastwood’s direction.The film follows the lives of three individuals in different cities in different countries, seeking answers to life’s greatest paradox: is there life after death? The seekers have never met and, on the face of it, are not a part of the same equation.
George, the loner, worries about job security in San Francisco. In France, Marie Lelay (Cecile De France), the journalist, fears the boot by France’s biggest publisher Didier (Thierry Neuvic) and worries about her job security. In London a mom worries about keeping her job as mother to identical twins Marcus/Jason (Frankie McLaren and George McLaren ). Clint’s job is to connect this people bazaar with karmic ties that land them in the same city meet-up at the end.
Death-and-loss themes run through this film, but Eastwood is reassuring his audience while raising directly the possibility of death at every age. He introduces the idea of reincarnation or rebirth. Here Clint paints with flat finish rather than a shiny one that only a psychic can divine. Speaking of divine – God does not have a role in Hereafter. He is never mentioned nor is there love for Asia after the tsunami. No eating in George’s cooking class in Frisco and just a wisp of praying at a funeral in London.
So how does Eastwood introduce reincarnation and life after death? One way is through George. He is obsessed with and falls asleep to the readings of Charles Dickens. That love changes his life in unexpected ways. And where does George get this ability in the first place? He explains it as an operation gone badly. Simultaneously, in France, there’s talk of a “silent conspiracy” against those who make clinical studies of the NDE or near-death experience.
The recreation of the December 26, 2004, tsunami is a heavy piece of history that most recall. The tsunami event, in an unnamed city, explores the NDE in beautiful sequences. Here Marie dies and recalls something while she is gone – a very hazy vision and feeling of floating. Is that all? I did not get it. I found it to be no more than a mediator’s forgotten dream experience, unconvincing, nice try.
This film is set in the present and is more about how distraction or obsession with death is not a way to win friends or influence people. Life moves upside down for the three protagonists: a young twin will lose his brother, a French journalist will lose her job, and George’s dock job will dry up. He tries to take up a normal life and new line of work, but can’t escape his calling to talk to the dead.
What conclusions does Clint profess? He presents nothing different from what most orthodox religions believe: that people go somewhere but can still be reached somehow by the right psychic. In this case, George needs only to hold hands to make an instant connection to pivotal events in a person’s life. Some unnerved while others beg for his touch.
I have to tell you that Matt’s George is a beautifully nuanced performance. He is an ordinary person with an extraordinary gift: connecting to the dearly departed. While there is nothing original about Eastwood’s premise that the dress rehearsals for death (aka NDEs) are new. I do not find much merit in the so-called NDE. So why dwell on it?
On the other hand, in Clint’s film the NDE does not even make sense to this psychic. In fact, I know that the only way that people can have the type of karmic ties portrayed in Hereafter is if they were forged in former lives. That is my problem with this film from a spiritual point of view. I think Clint should have been a little bolder in addressing reincarnation and take a more critical look at the NDE instead of this uncertain approach to a certain event – death.