“Hereafter” (2010). Cast: Matt Damon, Cécile de France, George McLaren, Frankie McLaren, Derek Jacobi, Jay Mohr, Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Kind, Steve Schirripa, Thierry Neuvic, Marthe Keller, Jean-Yves Berteloot, Lyndsey Marshal, Rebekah Staton, Declan Conlon, Niamh Cusack, George Costigan. Director: Clint Eastwood. Screenplay: Peter Morgan. http://hereafter.warnerbros.com.
What happens when we die? That’s one of the most intriguing, mystifying and, for some, frightening questions that we face in life. And given that death is the one common fate—or common experience—that we all share, it’s a question that’s understandably important, even if it’s one that some of us would rather ignore. All angst aside, however, coming to terms with the afterlife seems to be an increasingly crucial concern for the mass consciousness these days considering how many recent films have been released that address the subject from various perspectives (“Get Low,” “Infinity: The Ultimate Trip” and “A Single Man,” to name a few). These films have done a fine job of exploring the issue, too, but now a new offering has come along that examines it in a comprehensive, highly considered way, the thoughtful drama, “Hereafter.”
“Hereafter” tells three stories that span the globe, not unlike the 2006 release “Babel.” The difference here, though, is that all the stories in this film deal with different aspects of death and the afterlife and how they play out in the characters’ lives.
* George Lonegan (Matt Damon) desperately wants to find his life. He’s a factory worker in San Francisco who takes night classes in the culinary arts. But most of his time is spent alone, quietly brooding about his circumstances. It wasn’t always like that, though. For years George worked as a professional psychic with the ability to help connect the living to their departed loved ones, a talent that brought him abundance and notoriety. But while most people saw George’s ability as a gift, he saw it as a curse, one that affected his relationships and his outlook on life. He had difficulty reconciling how to live a life whose primary focus was on death. Nevertheless, even though such realizations helped him discover what he didn’t want, they brought him no closer to finding what he did, and so now he searches endlessly, looking for answers that perpetually elude him.
* Marie LeLay (Cécile de France) is a highly successful French TV journalist. She has a great job and a devoted beau (Thierry Neuvic). Life is good. But that all changes one morning. While on vacation in the South Pacific, Marie is swept up in the enormous wave of a destructive tsunami that strikes the island paradise. She’s carried away by the powerful surge, drowning and losing consciousness, eventually lapsing into a near death experience. Remarkably, she’s rescued and resuscitated, but she’s no longer the same person she was before, a challenge she wrestles with in the aftermath of the tragedy and upon her return to Paris. She struggles to find her place in a scheme of things she no longer sees the same way. Her search for answers thus begins in earnest.
* Jason and Marcus (George McLaren, Frankie McLaren) are identical twins living with their drug-addicted mother (Lyndsey Marshal) in a gritty London neighborhood. Despite being identical twins, the siblings are not totally alike. Jason is a courageous, gregarious, take-charge young man, while Marcus is a quiet, reserved lad in search of guidance and support, most of which he gets from his twin brother. So it should come as no surprise that Marcus is devastated when Jason is killed in a tragic accident, a problem compounded when he’s placed in foster care while his mum undergoes rehab. Marcus longs to find his departed brother, but what he really needs to do is find himself.
Not surprisingly, all three stories eventually intertwine, culminating in London as a result of an intriguing string of synchronicities. And it’s through such interactions that answers are at last provided, offering the possibility of new beginnings for all concerned.
As the stories unfold, viewers are treated to a rich tapestry of ideas on the nature of death. Perhaps the most notable of these is the notion that death is an inherent part of life. It’s woven into the fabric of our everyday experience, because it’s the one eventuality that we all share. But as the notion is depicted in the film, death isn’t some horrific, dreadful occurrence to be feared but a simple transition from one state of being to another, almost as if one were exchanging one suit of clothes for another. And when viewed through the lens of conscious creation/law of attraction philosophy, death is essentially an expression of one of its core principles—that we’re all in a constant state of becoming. The transition that death provides, then, is merely a means for making that transformative state of becoming possible.
Since death is a part of life, and since it’s essentially an embodiment of the concept of “transition,” it’s also apparent, as seen in the film’s three stories, that we all die a little each day in our waking life pursuits, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. One door closes, and another opens, with the death of the former giving birth to the latter. Of course, how we respond to the new circumstances that arise is ultimately what’s most important, for, as every conscious creation practitioner knows, the outcome we experience will depend on the beliefs we hold going in (besides, whatever changes ultimately appear came from us, too) . We get what we concentrate on, even when making transitions such as this.
The intrinsic connectedness of all things—even those that seem permanently separated by the wall between the worlds—is another conscious creation theme addressed in this film. Our connections to the departed may be less obvious than when our loved ones were still amongst the living, perhaps taking on forms that are more metaphorical, symbolic or synchronistic than literal, but those connections are tangible nonetheless, especially when we make the effort to make ourselves aware of them. In that sense, then, we need never feel as though we’ve lost those we love; it simply means we may need to connect with them in ways we never thought of before.
And then, of course, there’s the character of the afterlife itself, which, as explained in the picture, sounds like a conscious creator’s dream come true, a metaphysical playground where the limitations of physical existence are removed and the potential for creative expression knows no bounds. It’s a joyful way of being that makes monodimensional reality seem mundane by comparison. Think of it as an amusement park for your consciousness, and you’ll have an idea of what the departed are talking about—and what we have to look forward to.
“Hereafter” is a beautiful meditation on its subject matter, presented in a quiet, subtle, deftly layered package. It’s not the kind of picture one might readily associate with Clint Eastwood, but the director has turned in a fine effort with this offering, easily his best work behind the camera. In particular, Eastwood’s efforts at getting emotion out of his characters (and evoking it amongst its viewers) easily set this picture apart from his prior works, which I’ve often found leave much to be desired in that regard. I was also blown away by the realism of the tsunami sequence, an incredible technical accomplishment. I especially liked the film’s use (or, in some cases, absence) of sound in this sequence (and elsewhere in the film for that matter), some of the best work I’ve ever heard in this area. The film’s pacing at times is, admittedly, a little slow, but as the story progresses and viewers are drawn into the three stories, that issue dissipates completely.
When it comes to life, none of us is going to get out of it alive. But then maybe that’s a blessing, for if we never died, we’d never grow and evolve, either, stagnating in an existence of stifling sameness. “Hereafter” helps us appreciate the value of this mode of transition, both in our daily life and for the one that awaits us. And for that, we should all be grateful.
Copyright © 2010, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.