It was around this time last year that Peter Jackson’s bold and visually stunning vision of the afterlife, The Lovely Bones (2010), was met with – at best – lukewarm responses from both audiences and critics. Rather upsettingly, to predict such a reaction for director Clint Eastwood’s latest film, Hereafter (2011) would require superhuman levels of optimism.
Whilst my viewing of Hereafter was tainted from the get go (or more appropriately tinted, as the print being screened was awash with sickly green hues), this initial enraging annoyance was soon rendered inconsequential against the frustrations of having to endure such a devastatingly misguided piece of work, significantly lacking in the sort of depth that it so surely believed itself to posses.
Hereafter follows three strangers from three different cites, each dealing with their own individual encounters and glimpses of the afterlife. In London, a young boy (Frankie McLaren) struggles to come to terms with the tragic death of a family member; in Paris, a journalistic TV presenter (Cécile De France) is inspired to write a book on the afterlife after she suffers a near death experience during the film’s undeniably impressive and heart-stopping opening sequence; and in the aftermath of this arresting set piece, Matt Damon provides us with the film’s only watchable element through his convincing portrayal of genuine psychic, George Lonegan.
As is typical of many multi-plot narratives, coincidence rains supreme in Hereafter’s eventual finale, when all three central protagonists stumble upon one another at a book conference in central London. However, this predictable coming together of strangers has arguably never been carried off so clumsily by a director with as much experience and talent as Eastwood. Following a string of greatly admired releases in recent years (including the excellent Gran Torino ), Hereafter is sure to provide a rightfully perplexing shock to the system for even the most dutifully dedicated of Eastwood fans.