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HEREAFTER

SYNOPSIS:
French journalist Marie (Cécile de France), has a near-death experience while on holidays in Asia that impacts on her. George (Matt Damon), is a blue-collar worker in San Francisco who has a special connection to people who have died. And when London schoolboy Marcus (George McLaren), loses the person closest to him, he is devastated and alone. While looking for answers about life after death, their lives intersect, forever changed by what they believe might-or must-exist in the hereafter.

Review by Louise Keller:
Reigning in three diverse story strains with their complex common subject matter with consummate ease, Clint Eastwood is the master storyteller, allowing the story to glide as smoothly as silk transcending time and place to hone from the big picture to the individual story. Three seemingly unconnected stories that are touched by death and the afterlife are interwoven seamlessly until the element of chance prompts them to intersect. This is a film that has a little bit of everything in it. The scale is enormous, as it canvasses life's big topics: life, death and the meaning of it all. Just like life itself, there's a wonderful sense of the unpredictable about Hereafter; it's fascinating, moving and overwhelmingly satisfying.

Although Peter Morgan's superb screenplay includes recognisable world events in the storyline, namely the Indonesian tsunami and the London tube bombings, there is no specific mention of them. They, like many of the subtleties of the film, are left for the audience to include in their journey of discovery. When the film begins to reveal an idyllic tropical beach paradise setting and two lovers greeting the day together, we have no idea that a wave of terror will soon sweep away everything in its path. This is where the life of Cécile De France's high profile Paris television journalist Marie LeLay changes forever.

Death is very much in the front of mind of Matt Damon's George Lonegan, a psychic in San Francisco, powers he regards as a curse ('A life about death is no life at all'). As he tries to lead a normal life in a manual job, enjoying his obsession about Charles Dickens, his exploitative brother (Jay Mohr) can see the dollar signs of the after life flashing. There's a lovely scene at an Italian cooking class as Puccini plays in the background, when George and his cooking partner Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) share confidences, as they are taste-testing blindfolded. It's a relationship poised on the brink.

The plight of London youngster Marcus (Frankie McLaren) is the focus of the third story, whose bond with his twin is exacerbated by their drug-addicted, alcoholic mother. Circumstances and events propel each of the three stories until they naturally cross paths.

De France and Damon form the heart of the film, as Eastwood's assured direction and subtle music sweep us away. This is a film for a sophisticated palate, offering a thought-provoking journey that makes the world (and beyond) seem a more beautiful place.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's certainly one of the big questions mankind continues to explore: life after death. Is there any? If so what? Not surprisingly for an 80 year old (81 in May 2011), Clint Eastwood is thinking about this, and has Peter Morgan's screenplay to play with. It's a surprisingly gentle and sentimental exploration, written with lots of insurance dialogue - dialogue that answers the objections of potential sceptics in the audience who think that when people die, that's it and anything else is mumbo jumbo.

But not in the world of Hereafter, in which we are literally sucked in from the start with a spectacular tsunami that destroys a resort village (possibly in Indonesia) where Marie (Cecile De France) is sharing a holiday with her lover from work. The tsunami strikes when she is buying gifts for his children - because he hasn't bothered. If we are to take this as a pointed moral lesson, the filmmakers let us. But the real focus of the film is the distinct possibility of a beautiful afterlife, described here and there as a feeling of weightlessness and space.

Nothing too new or revelatory there, except that Morgan and Eastwood bring scientific characters to argue their case. In other words, Hereafter does its best to present a glimpse into the possibility in as matter of fact a manner as it can. It even pokes fun at the fake psychics who are in it for the money. It's as if Eastwood is saying, 'Hey, just take a minute and look at these stories... maybe there's something there...'

Each of the three key characters who make this journey towards discovery is given plenty of room - hence the 129 minute running time. The story of the young Marcus is perhaps the most affecting and effective, not least due to a wonderful performance by young George McLaren. There's more to his story than losing a loved one, and the less you know in advance the better.

Cecile De France has always played beautiful, vulnerable women with a great smile, and as TV reporter Marie, she again impresses with her ability to draw us into her character. Given time off after her trauma, she is set to write a political book - but ends up fascinated by the experience she had, and it leads her to write a different book - about the hereafter.

Matt Damon is the central character, George the reluctant psychic. His encounter with a woman (Dalls Bryce Howard) on the lookout for a relationship - and discovering that psychic readings can be fatal to romance - is a case in point. Damon's is a muted performance and rightly so, but an engaging one.

Eastwood's fans looking for the tough action guy in the story will be disappointed, and the film has its flaws - such as the inbuilt clumsiness of the structure. But it's a thoughtful and sensitive work, and while it may not convince the sceptics that there is something hereafter, it offers something to think about.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

HEREAFTER (M)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Matt Damon, Cecile De France, Bryce Dallas Howard, Frankie & George McLaren, Jay Mohr, Lindsey Marshall

PRODUCER: Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy, Robert Lorenz

DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood

SCRIPT: Peter Morgan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern

EDITOR: Joel Cox, Gary Roach

MUSIC: Clint Eastwood

PRODUCTION DESIGN: James J. Murakami

RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 10, 2011







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