Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
If you have followed Clint Eastwood’s career over the decades, it should come as no surprise that, even at age eighty, he still has many deep cinematic explorations within him. His latest film, Hereafter, takes us into Eastwood’s vision of life, death, and the connecting threads that hold it all together.
The film is three interwoven stories of people in different countries who seemingly have no connection to each other except their experiences with death. A French television journalist is caught up in the Indonesian tsunami, a life-changing event that shakes her to the core. Eastwood recreates this horrific natural disaster in a terrific piece of filmmaking that puts to shame every other cataclysm-based film. He also still has the knack to find terrific performers and coax career-best performances out of them.
The Parisian journalist is played Cecile de France in a role that gives her the chance to extend the appreciated range of French actresses. In this one role, she joins the list of such greats as Isabelle Adjani and Isabelle Huppert. She is at once confidant, successful, frightened, vulnerable, and a delight to watch on screen.
In San Francisco, Matt Damon is a seriously conflicted forty-something who is attempting to put his life as a psychic behind him. He finds the pressure and responsibility of such a gift more than he can bear. Unfortunately, his ambitious brother wants him to continue working as a psychic because of the money involved. Damon lives simply, has taken an ordinary factory job, and is trying to make a normal life for himself. Fate, however, has other plans for him. He encounters a young woman in a cooking class and they are drawn to each other. Bryce Dallas Howard, who sometimes can be creepy or annoying, depending on what role she’s playing, is wonderful. Here, she provides a heartfelt portrait of a woman with many needs…and secrets.
And in London, twin adolescent boys live with their mother, an alcoholic and heroin addict. They all love each other, and the boys do their best to protect her and keep the family together. She finally must go into rehab, and their world starts to unravel. Lyndsey Marshall is terrific as the mother, as are real-life siblings Frankie and George McLaren as the twins.
The script by Peter Morgan, scribe of The Queen and The Last King Of Scotland, keeps the action moving forward while criss-crossing the various tales. Eastwood effortlessly blends everything together in what proves to be an intriguing, thoughtful meditation on the here and the hereafter. Although the film is contemplative, it’s never draggy. The various stories never get confusing. And it’s a marvel of one incredible performance after another. To keep himself busy during his spare time, Eastwood also contributes another appropriate musical score, in his usual style: spare, tuneful, and mood setting. Who would have thought that the actor-director who mastered genre films such as westerns and police thrillers would turn out to be one of America’s most treasured filmmakers.
It’s not giving anything away to tell you that the three stories inevitably connect, and it all flows naturally, without being trite or forced, like it was just meant to be. Hereafter is heartbreaking, hopeful, and should be honored come awards time as one of Eastwood’s very best films.
The PG-13 rated Hereafter is not showing everywhere, so check the listings for your favorite cinema to find out where you can see it.