Hereafter

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HEREAFTER, or whatever may constitute it, begins, as it does for many people, with a rush. In the case of this 2010 speculation, the rush is water, in the form of a tsunami, imagined with astonishing Oscar-nominated Visual Effects in a frightening, jaw-dropping sequence that begins just three minutes after the film starts. It doesn’t last much longer than that; you wonder how the story can sustain dramatic momentum for the two hours to go. That it does, as a measured, thoughtful meditation on loss, hope and connection, is due to Peter Morgan’s sensitive writing and Clint Eastwood’s steady, unfussy direction of a handpicked cast. *

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French TV journalist ‘Marie LeLay’ (Cécile de France) barely returns from death’s doorway after being caught in a tsunami. Her experience is so profound that it shakes up her work and personal relationships: she seeks validation. In California, ‘George Lonegan’ (Matt Damon) is tormented by his mysterious power as a medium, something he sees as curse rather than gift. In London, a wrong-place/right-time accident leaves 12-year-old ‘Marcus’ without his twin ‘Jason’ (the boys are played by identical twins Frankie & George McLaren), and in foster care due to their mother’s drug habit. Separated by distance, age, background and circumstance, in their own way, they all search for common, ever-elusive answers. Why me? Why this? What for? Why now?  And, now—what?

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Eastwood cast everyman-exemplar Damon because he was so impressed with his work on Clint’s previous film, Invictus. Belgium’s answer to Penelope Cruz, Cécile de France, radiates intelligence and elegance. The McLaren twins were a real find—the boys had never acted before: they’re naturals. There’s a lovely supporting performance from Bryce Dallas Howard as an immediately endearing lady who strikes up a friendship with Damon’s lonely, guarded George. Another neat inclusion is a brief bit with the where’d-you-go? Marthe Keller as a Kubler-Ross-like doctor who aids Marie in her existential journey. The actors are, without exception, engaging, the script doesn’t condescend, the “what next? is universal. Do you have it figured out? If so, please let us in on how you’ve found the answer that’s eluded billions of the less -enlightened for thousands of years.

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Made for $50,000,000, it secured mostly positive reviews, but in terms of revenue, it only came to 88th place in the States, providing 30% of a world gross of $106,956,000. Fine cinematography by Tom Stern, his 9th of 14 assignments for Clint: it’s a quite handsome production, with location work in Paris and Chamonix, London, San Francisco and on Maui in Hawaii. Eastwood also composed the spare score.

In the cast: Jay Mohr, Thierry Neuvic, Lyndsey Marshal, Richard Kind, Steven R. Schirripa, Derek Jacobi, Mylène Jampanoi. 129 minutes.

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* Clint: “There’s a certain charlatan aspect to the hereafter, to those who prey on people’s beliefs that there’s some afterlife, and mankind doesn’t seem to be willing to accept that this is your life and you should do the best you can with it and enjoy it while you’re here, and that’ll be enough. There has to be immortality or eternal life and embracing some religious thing. I don’t have the answer. Maybe there is a hereafter, but I don’t know, so I approach it by not knowing. I just tell the story.”  Exceptionally well.

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