This is Ron Salfen, “At The
Movies,” and here’s my commentary on “After
which opened this week at the
You know all those movies where
immediately upon death, there’s a really bright light, and you get to go
to a place that’s colorful and fantastic, with phenomenal visuals?
And if someone happens to have
lingered in the twilight, and they return to the land of the living,
they’re inevitably disappointed in the drabness, and want to return to
Well, that’s not what happens in “After.Life.”
We begin with a creepy Funeral Director named Eliot Deacon (Liam
Neeson) conversing with his cadavers as if they could talk back, an
obvious foreshadowing. Then,
we proceed immediately across town to a rather desultory lovemaking
session between Paul (Justin Long) and Anna (Christina Ricci).
They promise, in the morning, to try harder to be excited for one
another, like they really want to make this happen, they just don’t know
The next night, after work, Paul is all ready to proclaim his love
and finally give her the engagement ring, right after he tells her that
his job is moving him to
. But he never gets to
complete his well-rehearsed presentation.
Before he can produce the ring, she stalks from the table in a
huff, flees to her car, races down the road, crying, and….gets in a
Or is it fatal? She
wakes up and speaks to the always-somber Eliot Deacon, who, while
stitching the gash on her forehead, assures her that she’s dead---even
shows her the death certificate, officially signed, hours ago, by the
county coroner. She’s not
convinced, and at first tries to run away, unsuccessfully (while he
whines, “Why do you all have problems accepting your death?”)
Eventually, she seems to settle into the idea that though she’s
breathing and talking, she must be dead, because he’s convinced her that
he has a special gift to communicate to those who are “in transition”
between life and death. Not
surprisingly, she says this feels more like Hell:
she’s neither on earth or in heaven, and she can’t seem to
escape, and no one comes to save her. (Insert obvious theological response
Meanwhile, her devastated boyfriend tries desperately, and
unsuccessfully, to see her (he’s not family, and never got along with
her mother). As viewers, we
wonder, too, if this macabre funeral director actually has special gifts,
or is he really a psycho (and the filmmakers helpfully provide us with
homage to the classic film of that title).
Eliot Deacon, it turns out, has a prejudice about people who are
technically alive, but, in his estimation, they’ve quit living a long
time ago. So, depressed and
uncertain, Anna confesses to him that she was afraid to love, and scared
to live, anyway, and death would, after all, end her struggle to find out
what she was supposed to do with her life (other than be an unenthusiastic
Yes, “After.Life” is creepy,
but not really scary. It’s
also a whole lot of footage of Ms. Ricci nude on the morgue slab, who
apparently feels there’s nothing left to hide.
(And yes, people, that gratuitous bit of necrophilia really was
over the top.)
Though there’s some unfulfilled romance, “After.Life” is not
really a love story. Neither
is it a horror film in the traditional sense.
It’s its own quirky self, take it or leave it.
Most of the living will do the latter.
This is Ron Salfen, “At The
Movies,” for 93.5 KICK-FM