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After Life Review

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A celestial film crew helps the recently departed commit their favourite memory to eternal celluloid.

★★★★

Filmmakers have always had a yen to create Heaven on Earth. From Alexander Hall's Here Comes Mr Jordan to Danny Boyle's A Life Less Ordinary, they've come up with some pretty inspired visions of the hereafter. But none can rival the simple ingenuity of Hirokazu Kore-Eda's After Life, which, unwittingly, recalls both Powell and Pressburger's A Matter Of Life And Death and Diane Keaton's Heaven.

The action takes place in a spartan complex of celestial waiting-rooms, into which silhouetted figures emerge from a dazzlingly lit portal. At interview, the deceased are told they have a couple of days to decide on their most meaningful memory, after which it will be recreated on film to accompany them as their solace in eternity. For some the choice is easy - dancing in a red dress; flying through billowing clouds or the fall of cherry blossom. But for others, like elderly Mr Watanabe (Naito), the selection is hampered by the unremarkability of life. However, he's not alone, as the film unit is comprised exclusively of people unable to alight on a single remembrance, a fact that increasingly troubles Mochizuki (Arata), a World War II victim whose untainted youth endears him to his new assistant, Shiori (Oda).

What is so appealing about this elegiac fantasy is its human heart. The care taken to capture a precious moment, the tact with which the indecision of both a timid teenager and a cocky punk is handled and the humble gratitude of the dead are all perfectly realised by a splendid cast, including several amateur performers who improvised their recollections. Similarly the trappings of heaven, such as the vast video library of individual lives, are presented without fanfare.

This is a delightful addition to anyone's filmic memory.

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