Hereafter is a Final Destination movie with the air of respectability that Clint Eastwood commands, but absolutely no fun. Clint Eastwood doing Final Destination may sound awesome, but this is a movie just designed to make you feel miserable.
French television reporter Marie LeLay (Cecile De France) survives a disaster in South America and has a near death vision. Pre-teen British twins Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) have a heroin addict for a mother and questions about what happens when you die. George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a psychic who has the answers, but doesn’t give them anymore, except for when his brother Billy (Jay Moher) talks him into reading a friend so the audience can see what he does.
This isn’t one of those cathartic movies like The Notebook or Monster’s Ball where the film actually deals with dark subjects in a productive way. These three stories are just plodding, mundane sorrow. Oh, look at all the tragedy befalling those cute, wise-beyond-their-years kids. Look at the burden this power places on George. Look how spiritual doubts tear Marie apart.
Also, the three stories are just boring. They really milk the druggie mom well into the second act. Come on, already. To get out more, George takes a cooking class where he’s paired with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). As these two sad losers get to know each other’s sadness, you realize there are still two other awful stories to get back to.
Billy is purely a device to give exposition about George. Every time he appears, he mentions all the experiences George had in the past, in the context of “this time will be different” but it’s still artificial. The pain a true psychic would feel facing grieving moms could be poignant. It was when that subject was dealt with in The Gift. Just tossing in a throwaway scene here is cheap.
The big disaster is presented in that matter of fact no frills Eastwood style. The CGI still looks fake, especially in the muted tones in which he shoots film. It’s a scary accident though. Those people are in trouble. The other near death experiences are so contrived they wouldn’t even belong in the prologue of a “Six Feet Under” episode.
The film makes no contribution to the spiritual movement. In fact, it sets the movement back by removing any possibility from it. It’s just vague enough so they don’t have to offer any real inspiration. Yet they specify something with the blurry Hereafter-vision. Then they try to get away with a childlike point of view, as if it’s all innocent. Listen, if you’re going to offer a philosophy, then commit to it. If you’re not, you’d better ask some more probing questions than this movie does.