After a near-death experience during a tsunami, hard-nosed French TV journalist Marie LeLay (De France) reassesses her life. After his twin brother is run over and killed by a car, a deprived London boy (George and Frankie McLaren) is desperate to maintai
It's interesting that, at 81 years old, Clint Eastwood should for the first time choose to tackle the supernatural and the question of what happens after we die. And the fact that the script that hooked him was written by Peter Morgan — such an astute dramatiser of major true-life political events and figures (in The Queen and Frost/Nixon especially) — should be an exciting prospect. Yet both factors only compound disappointment when it becomes apparent that Hereafter is a sagging failure.
Not an unmitigated disaster, mind you. The opening sequence portrays a tsunami pummelling its way through a lazy coastal tourist trap, holidaying Frenchwoman Cécile De France tossed around with such deadly jetsam as cars and telephone poles. It’s a breathtaking sequence, and a strong set-up. And, of the three story strands, the one concerning Matt Damon’s medium, George, who can’t touch another person without his psyche becoming engorged with messages from their dead loved-ones, offers the film’s dramatic high points as he tentatively attempts romance with Bryce Dallas Howard’s twinkly Melanie during cookery lessons.
Elsewhere, De France’s crusading journo irritatingly diverts her attention from topics that matter to a mission to prove the ‘reality’ of the afterlife. This amounts to her driving off with a box of files given to her by a single white-coated source who talks vaguely about how these shared near-death experiences can’t just be coincidence: bad journalism and bad science espoused in one fell swoop. Ultimately, she’s no better than all the quacks Morgan has such larks mocking in an earlier sequence.
The other thread sees Eastwood out of sorts in Elephant And Castle, dealing with a troubled mite who just lost his twin brother to a car accident and has a junkie mother. Sadly, the twins who play the kid — plucked off the streets of London — can’t act, and not even decades of experience can help Eastwood steer them towards something even half-convincing. But this is as much the fault of the sometimes sub-soap script — it hardly helps to have one of the poor boys exclaim, “Now we can finally be a proper family!” Eastwood does EastEnders? No thanks.
Slow, ponderous and as shallow as it thinks it is deep, lifted only by an impressive opening and fine work from Damon and Howard.