“Hereafter” promises a glimpse into the afterlife, but is
strangely devoid of any kind of reference to any religion, including
Christianity. So don’t expect
any faith statements of any kind, other than some amorphous sort of
ill-defined assumption that is a lot closer to the biblical Sheoul than
anything resembling the Heaven of the New Testament.
In the few glimpses we see on the screen, shadowy figures stand
around in a fog, silhouetted, translucent, hardly even recognizable.
They don’t seem to be agitated, but neither do they appear to be
very happy, either---the kind of place where the prophet Samuel was famously
conjured by the medium at Endor (I Samuel 28).
And the disguised King Saul didn’t exactly receive good news from
that séance, either.
Here, storied Director Clint Eastwood intertwines three stories.
Marie DeLay (Cecile De France) is a French investigative reporter on
vacation with her boyfriend at a sleepy seaside resort.
She has gone shopping for his kids while he sleeps late in the
high-rise luxury hotel, so she is out on the streets when the tsunami
unexpectedly hits. She is swept
away by the rushing waters, and has a kind of near-death experience before
she is pulled out of the water and revived.
But in her few moments of lingering between life and death, she sees
the vision of the “Hereafter” which will forever haunt her.
Once the pouncing tiger on an interview, seeking to figuratively
disembowel unsuspecting prey, now she’s distracted, preoccupied, unable to
focus on the task at hand. Her
boyfriend/director encourages her to take a leave of absence to “get
over” what happened to her, but instead she works on a book, not the
recommended revelatory bio of Francois Mitterand, the former French Prime
Minister, but instead, an autobiographical pursuit of her life-altering
Meanwhile, a young English boy loses his twin in a fatal car
accident, and he is completely devastated.
His twin was his connection to the rest of the world, because their
father was absent and their mother was an addict, and the boys (Frankie and
George McLaren) themselves became clever at dodging the social service
workers. The surviving boy is
convinced that his brother is still watching out for him, and is desperate
to make contact with him, so he seeks encounters with a heart-rending
procession of quacks and charlatans.
But there is one man, George Lonegan (Matt Damon), who is not an
imposter. Because of a
twilight-death experience he had on the operating table as a child, he has
been cursed with a gift: the
ability to hold someone’s hands, receive some kind of electric thought
transfer, and then connect with the departed loved one whom they desperately
sought. Yes, the ones in Sheoul.
He used to make a living at it, but discovered that it was too
stressful for him to do this all the time, despite the encouragement of his
brother (who was making a nice stipend as his manager and agent).
So George, dismissed from his menial fork-lift job at the plant, just
decides to take off and start a new life:
yes, London, where he could then meet both the English boy and the
French woman at the same book fair---but only after one more unsuccessful
attempt to lead a “normal” life.
If, as the viewer, you really do believe in a Hereafter, you won’t
find much encouragement here. The
few who have “the gift” of envisioning are not describing a celebratory
resurrection at all---more like a disembodied shadow-world of
disenfranchised, isolated, ghost-wanderers.
It’s hardly the afterlife eagerly anticipated by Christian
believers, or anybody else, either.
“Hereafter” is well-crafted, and well-written, but as ephemeral
and un-graspable as the ethereal vision it attempts to describe.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace