Hereafter - Blu-ray Review

'is Damon truly the star when, after nearly thirty minutes, we've only spent a single scene in his company?'

Hereafter's massively baggy runtime of one-hundred and twenty-nine minutes goes some way to speaking for its core problem: Peter Morgan's script is actually three films rolled in to one.

As a starting point there's Matt Damon as retired psychic George Lonegan, struggling to connect with the real world and form proper bonds with those around him. But is Damon truly the star when, after nearly thirty minutes, we've only spent a single scene in his company? Arguably that honour falls to C├ęcile De France, as a TV host who experiences visions after her brush with death in the film's masterful opening scene and sets out to combat the prejudice associated with being a 'believer'. That's not all though. In twins George and Frankie McLaren, director Clint Eastwood explores the 'hereafter' through a third lens, muddying the waters still further.

Any one of the above plot strands could easily justify a ninety-minute film in its own right and the hints that there wasn't ample time to develop each one properly are everywhere. Lonegan, for example, starts up a sweet-looking relationship with cooking partner Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard, lovely and sadly rather wasted) and is pressured by his brother (Jay Mohr) to return to selling his psychic readings full time. Both of these subplots just end. Suddenly and without much warning the characters involved in them disappear from the film. If the entirety of Hereafter was devoted to Damon's character there would be a much more satisfying arc to invest in.

First to be evicted from the recut film would undoubtedly be the McLaren twins who, with the best will in the world towards two so young, simply aren't good enough. Their line delivery is flat and characterless and in scenes that lack dialogue their faces tell you little. As a result of both this and the similar character disappearances during their story, it is near-impossible to invest in them on any level and their arc should have been lost at the editing stage.

Technically too Eastwood's film feels weak. The lighting in several scenes is woeful (anything in Lonegan's apartment) and his direction fails to avoid several psycho-babble cliches (note the 'two-hands-on-one-object-for-slightly-too-long' in the above still). The blu-ray transfer is also a let down.

All of which is a crying shame given that occasionally, just occasionally, there are flashes of what everyone involved can accomplish. Lonegan's reading of two characters (and their subsequent reactions) are particularly strong, sealing the travesty that Damon wasn't allowed to feature more in a film too concerned with too many other things.




Look further...

'These three stories are all 'connected' by one thing: a fascination with the afterlife. But the problem is, other than that, these stories have as much in common as a bean, rabbit and book shelf' - Cinematic Paradox

6 comments:

  1. but man oh man... that opening scene... is one of the most gut-wrenching bits of film i have ever viewed.

    it is a shame how much potential this film had that it didn't meet.

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  2. Yes, very good opening scene. The annoying thing about this film is the fact that I would definitely watch and probably enjoy two out of the three films contained within it (the twins are the exception). Someone should recut it as two separate films, it can't possibly make it any worse!

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  3. Sorry to say I found your review hopelessly unpersuasive. I don't think you have the slightest idea what the film was actually about much less how each of the characters represents an aspect of our attitude toward death. Saying that the twins storyline should be thrown out is really quite ignorant. Eastwood made a gentle, thoughtful and quietly touching movie about the value of life. It's a shame that all that went straight over your head.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it more than I did Harry, but wish you could have expressed your view without the passive aggressiveness: just because someone has a different view to you doesn't mean the film went 'over their head'.

      I think your suggestion that each character is an aspect of our attitude towards death is a interesting one but I'm not sure I agree; what does the twin's story say about our attitude towards death that any other death in the film doesn't, for example? And surely if this was the point of the three stories then there should have been a sceptic towards ideas of life after death in there somewhere? De France loses her own doubts pretty early on and Damon knows the truth, he just doesn't want to see it.

      The Twins storyline didn't work for me because I thought the acting was pretty awful but sure, perhaps with better performances I would have liked it more - unfortunately leaving it in doesn't solve the problem of it being a pretty jam-packed film with lots of separate narratives fighting for room.

      Like I say, glad you obviously got more out of it than I did - seems to have really spoken to you to encourage you to defend it so passionately.

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  4. this comment might be a year late but i'd like to disagree with the flatness and characterless of the twins, i wasn't able to see the entire film but i was pretty convinced with the one who played marcus. his being straight face kind of pulled me into his character. it was interesting in a way that makes me wonder what he is thinking. and it kind of reflects his feelings towards his brother's death. you know that feeling of just going through each day without knowing where you're going. i think his flatness shows how directionless his life is now that his brother is gone (he was too dependent on his brother as the film describes it). just saying.

    sticking to the original issue, the three storylines were really too far from each other, to be honest i was thinking how they are all going to cross paths but they did. and i think that clint did a good job in developing the scenes upto the point where they're actually in the same book fair. just plain amazing.

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    1. No problem with late comments, thanks for stopping by to make it!

      I can see your point with how the twins were played. The shock of death could definitely explain why, particularly Marcus, goes through the film so blankly and that ties in with Anon's comment that the characters are explorations of different elements of death.

      That said, I still really think the actors chosen are poor. There are great child actors around, and the two in this I just didn't think were good enough.

      Glad you enjoyed it more than I!

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