Possibly into his own self-styled extreme makeover in movies, octogenarian Clint ‘Make My Day’ Eastwood as director appears to be shedding his tough guy persona, as he segues into aspirations in art over action. And perhaps more now into cameras shooting people dead, instead of guns. At least as evidenced in the brooding, borderline occult afterlife drama, Hereafter. Or to put it another way, Make My Daydream.
Mixing mortality, meds, mysticism, and migraines, Hereafter is a globe trotting circular narrative intertwining the telepathic experiences of three characters, as they venture beyond the grave to make contact with deceased humans. Central to these often disturbing excursions is George (Matt Damon), a reluctant San Francisco blue collar psychic, whose gift of communing with the dead has made him rather popular with seance seeking mourners.
But the constant demands of the grieving to contact their departed kin, has left George feeling lonely and miserable, when not simply freakish, and seeking nightly solace listening to somber Charles Dickens audio-books as a way to lull himself to sleep. In other words familiarity, especially with the dead, not only breeds contempt, but may be seriously overrated.
Meanwhile, French television newscaster Marie (Cecile de France) gets caught in the explosively depicted, devastating tsunami when vacationing in the Pacific, and is convinced that while nearly drowning she spent some time among the dead. And much to the dismay of her bosses back at the station, she takes time off from her duties to write about it, in a book she’s titled Hereafter. Then there’s Marcus (George and Frankie McLaren), a London schoolboy in foster care. And in a frustrating search for other than impostor psychics, who can put him in touch with his recently deceased twin brother.
And while Hereafter crosses back and forth into a multinational, bilingual afterlife, Eastwood never thankfully crosses a line into religious doctrine, keeping the lyrical pace primarily whimsical and in the realm of secular conjecture and reverie. Along with comic detours into psychic (and audience) stress-relieving cooking classes – intimating a bit of romance as well for Matt on the menu – during which Clint pulls off the impressive feat of making opera and taste test blindfolds sexy, who knew.
Hereafter is somewhat too reliant on coincidental narration even as the story seems to ultimately lose its way, much like the confused and despondent characters stuck in thematic tsunamis of their own. But there is always a deeply felt sense along the way that Eastwood, perhaps externalizing his own inner turmoil about aging through a movie touching on the enigma of mortality, that never feels less than genuine.
Hereafter is the Closing Night Feature of the NY Film Festival. More information is online at: filmlinc.com.