Death rides a sluggish horse

Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” is a slow and somber meditation on the afterlife.

Tony Libera

âÄúHereafterâÄù

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Frankie and George McLaren

Rated: PG-13

Showing at: Area theaters

 

Death has always been an integral part of Clint EastwoodâÄôs filmography, from his early shoot-âÄôem-up westerns to more recent, reflective works like âÄúGran Torino.âÄù In his latest, âÄúHereafter,âÄù Eastwood once again dives into that most important of motifs, but this time the icon, now in his 80s, shifts some of his focus to the age-old question of what happens to people post-mortem.

âÄúHereafterâÄù details three interweaving narratives. The first deals with a French television reporter (Cécile De France) who nearly dies in a tsunami. She sees visions of the dead and soon becomes obsessed with her experience, taking a hiatus from the job that made her famous to pen a book about the afterlife.

The second thread follows a set of twins, Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren in both roles), living with their smack-addled mother in London. When Jason is hit by a van during a run to the store, social services bear down and the boysâÄô mother enters rehab. This leaves Marcus without blood ties, searching for answers to his brotherâÄôs untimely death.

In the third piece of the story, a formerly famous psychic named George Lonnegan (Matt Damon) is persuaded to do a reading for one of his brotherâÄôs clients in San Francisco. George is reluctant, having hung up his psychic slacks due to the emotional strain cause by his gift (âÄúItâÄôs not a gift, Billy; itâÄôs a curse!âÄù Damon laments à la Spider-Man). George needs be in physical contact with a person in order to reach their deceased loved ones, which plays out negatively, as one would imagine, when it comes to romantic relationships.

ThatâÄôs a lot of plot to cram into one movie, even at a 129-minute run time, but Eastwood and cast manage to endow each of the three central characters with the vital spark of humanity.

Unfortunately, the movie crawls as a direct result of this super-inspecting gaze, and the continual shift between the stories only drags out the feeling of tedium further. The three stories donâÄôt even begin to intersect until three-quarters of the way through the movie, building up expectations for one hell of a climax, which never really hits. Some will praise the deliberate pacing, but itâÄôs likely that many will just be bored while watching âÄúHereafter.âÄù Ten people, ranging from stereotypical, obnoxious pachyderms to seemingly average folk, walked out of the free (as in, did not have to pay any monetary sum) screening of the film.

âÄúHereafterâÄù does feature a solid cast and a superstar director, which means the film is not without a few poignant moments. ItâÄôs just a shame they never add up to an affecting, cohesive whole. GeorgeâÄôs first physic reading with a widower (an understated turn by Richard Kind), his interplay with a woman in his cooking class (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the hotel room scene with Marcus are all touching and distressing, giving a strong feeling of pathos âÄî but these moments are not enough to sustain the entire film.

 

2/4 Stars