"Avoiding the Subject"
Three people in different parts of the world, each haunted by mortality and searching for an understanding of what exists beyond the physical world. Clint Eastwood’s HEREAFTER tells their stories as they each search for the truth. When their lives ultimately intersect, they are changed forever.
George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a lonely, blue-collar American with a special ability to communicate with the dead. Physical contact immediately brings him into the world of the hereafter, making it impossible for him to be intimate with anyone. His brother, Billy (Jay Mohr), sees his connection to the afterlife as a gift and wants to capitalize on it, but George views it as a curse and longs to live a normal life.
When George is partnered with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) in their culinary class, he feels hopeful about the possibility of romance. They finally attempt to spend time together outside of the classroom, and Melanie discovers George’s gift. So, she begs him to do a “reading” for her. Despite his protests, George concedes and his reading uncovers a truth about Melanie’s life that leaves her devastated. Although Melanie promises his knowledge of her past won’t ruin their budding relationship, she disappears from his life, and George is left heartbroken once again. Then, when he is laid off from his job, George goes on a pilgrimage to London in hopes of finding a way to leave his past behind him.
Across the world, French reporter Marie DeLay (Cécile de France) is on holiday with her boyfriend in Southeast Asia. A large tsunami washes her away, and some rushing debri knocks her unconscious. Sinking deep beneath the water, Marie has a brush with death and sees visions of life beyond the physical world. After bystanders using CPR bring her back to life, she struggles to reintegrate herself into the world with which she was once so familiar. Forever changed by her near-death experience, Marie finds herself detached from those around her, leaving her close friends and colleagues uncomfortable with who she’s become. Frustrated with their lack of understanding and overwhelmed with curiosity about what she experienced, Marie writes a book about what happened, hoping to find someone who will listen and understand her.
Meanwhile in London, twin brothers, Jason and Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren), try to cover for their mother, who struggles with alcohol and drug abuse. Social workers pay an unexpected visit to their home. Always the leader and outspoken older twin, Jason formulates a plan to keep them from being taken away from her. When she sends Jason out to pick up medication that the boys believe will help get her off of drugs, Jason finds himself in the middle of a gang that bullies him and tries to steal the medication. Fighting at all costs to hold on to the one thing he believes will help his mother, Jason escapes from the pack of bullies, only to be chased into the path of an oncoming car and killed instantly.
With the death of his brother, Marcus is left to fend for himself. The incident is the one thing that finally awakens his mother to her reality, but in order for her to get the help she needs, she must send Marcus to a foster home. It is during his year with his foster parents that Marcus begins his journey to understand death and cope with a future without his best friend and brother.
George, Marie and Marcus’s paths all lead them to London, where their lives intersect unexpectedly. It is through their interactions with each other that they discover the truths they’ve been searching for and are able to accept their realities and move forward with greater peace.
Matt Damon delivers another excellent performance in his portrayal of George. Cécile de France lights up the screen with her beauty and sophistication. Brothers Frankie and George McLaren take an impressive turn as Marcus and Jason in their first time ever on the big screen. And, Clint Eastwood puts his signature stamp on the direction, with a beautifully shot movie and realistic special effects (particularly with the tsunami scenes).
However, the movie comes to an abrupt end, with each storyline wrapping up too easily and prettily. The ending leaves audiences wanting deeper answers to the questions presented throughout the film and longing for more realistic interactions between the characters.
Spiritually and philosophically, Eastwood offers viewers no solid theological answers and pretty much avoids the topic of theology. Furthermore, although some fake psychics are shown and the movie generally supports belief in an afterlife, it avoids Jesus Christ’s revelation about the subject and involves very strong, overt cases of psychic occultism or speaking to or communicating with dead people.
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
– Jesus Christ, John 11:25, 26.
(PaPaPa, OOO, FR, C, BB, L, VV, S, N, AA, DD, MM) Very strong, slightly mixed, pagan, occult worldview, with a main character being someone who can talk or connect with dead people, psychic seems to see future, and it’s implied that ghost knocks hat off someone’s head, and the only mention of traditional religion includes two YouTube videos – one depicting a Muslim claiming that the “angel of God” will find you in the afterlife and one depicting a Christian minister stating that you have nothing to fear if you believe in God but a priest after a Christian funeral also tells boy that death is a beginning not an ending, plus some strong moral elements such as great affection shown between mother and her twin boys, healthy foster home depicted, mother admits herself to rehab in order to get off of drugs and alcohol and completes the program so she can take care of her son again; one profanity and about three obscenities; strong violence, but mostly action related, though somewhat scary or disturbing, includes tsunami washes away people and surrounding objects, woman shown badly bruised after being pulled from the water and given CPR, boat explosion, boy bullied by a group of older boys and they chase him into the path of an oncoming car, boy is hit by a car and his dead body shown on the street, and a subway explosion occurs; implied sexual content includes an implication of incest, woman’s boyfriend admits he has had sexual relations with another woman, but his actions are not shown, and several tasteful kisses between adult man and woman; upper male nudity, woman shown naked in bathtub, but body parts are covered by soap suds, woman shown in her bra and underwear; alcohol abuse depicted by mother who stumbles into her home and drinks alcohol straight out of the bottle, adults shown drinking wine in an Italian cooking class and adults shown drinking wine at dinner; it is implied that the mother has a drug addiction, but drugs are not shown, and a man shown taking prescription medication; and, several psychic readings conducted by lead character, but fake psychics are also depicted, lying and stealing.
Clint Eastwood’s HEREAFTER tells three different stories about people haunted by mortality and searching for an understanding of what exists beyond the physical world. The three characters include George, a lonely young man with reluctant psychic powers to communicate with dead people. The second character is Marie, a woman who had a near death experience when a tsunami knocked her unconscious. The third character is a teenager who struggles to find meaning after his twin brother dies in an accident. The three stories converge in London, where the characters discover some general truths and happiness.
The acting in HEREAFTER is superb. Matt Damon does a fine job as the reluctant psychic. Clint Eastwood puts his signature stamp on the direction, with a beautifully shot movie and realistic effects. However, the movie comes to an abrupt end, with each storyline wrapping up too easily. Furthermore, Eastwood offers no theological answers and pretty much avoids the topic. Although some fake psychics are shown, and the movie generally supports belief in an afterlife, it avoids what Jesus Christ says and promotes an abhorrent occult worldview. How can you discuss the afterlife without focusing on God?