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With enough previews seen to qualify as “might be interesting,” I went to see Hereafter yesterday.  The movie starts with a splash.  One of the three central characters, Marie, a French TV journalist, is concluding a vacation with her producer when the sea withdraws and rushes back as an incoming tidal wave.  The special effects capture what many probably tried to imagine what it would have been like to be on the streets when seeing the footage of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Despite making the most of her limited option (run!), Marie has a taste of the afterlife before being resuscitated, which alters her priorities and focus.

The second major character is that of George, played by Matt Damon.  His character has the gift, or burden as we are reminded, of being a reluctant psychic who can relate messages from the deceased.  Two issues are involved.  1) He can sense a depth of details and emotion from a casual touch of the hands and 2) it impairs or inhibits his relationships with the living. 

Another major character is that of a London school boy, Marcus, whose lot in life is already challenged amply before losing his twin brother in an accident.  His role is to tie the other two character threads together and to otherwise explore the world of “Talk to the Dead” specialists.  He gives cursory glances at mainline religions, but they don’t meet his need of talking to his lost brother.  The remaining options provide a comic look at the charlatans that practice within that trade while giving testament to a world that desperately seeks consolation by those or any means.

Firm answers to the hereafter are hard to come by, and the film doesn’t commit itself to any real answers.  Were it not for George, there would be no story other than the search.

What this translates to is a slow movie.  It should be telling that Marie’s character could have touched death by any number of tragic events, but without a tsunami, there would be very little to grab the attention of  prospective audiences. 

Matt Damon carries the movie by his understated portrayal, but acting vehicles to establish “range” can be tedious.  To be fair, all of the actors are likewise credible – as they should be.  In the absence of any plot demand for a pace, there is ample time for character development.   But tedious remains an apt description.  We don’t get to see the characters choose their clothes each morning or clip their fingernails, but one wonders if such details might have been left on the editing floor.

It’s not a bad movie, by any means.  The ending provides a long coming and appreciated resolution to the characters’ needs.  Clint Eastwood directs, but if there are any trademark clues to that (slow pacing?), I wouldn’t have known.  After all, the story doesn’t lend itself to energizing screenplay options.  In short, it’s done well for what it is.  But it’s slow.  Did I mention that? 

It’s also one of those movies that could be enjoyed just as well in 6 months over Netflix, as there is no real reason to see this in a cinema or to fork over cash for a DVD, never mind a Bluray.  As further discouragement, clocking in at two hours and begging to be a half hour shorter, I’d hope that the studio refrains from any “extended footage.”  When it comes to repeated views, this clearly falls under a worthwhile “one and done,” a philosophy with which Marie’s producer would agree in answer to an awkward dining topic, “What do you think happens when we die?”

Me? I trust in more.

3 of 5 STARS



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