Most of the reviews of this movie are very negative. This is sad because this was actually a very good movie, certainly better than most of the movies that come out of Hollywood. Now it certainly isn’t as good as Inception or The Town, but you can’t always be the best movie of the year. Also the movie suffers from being a Clint Eastwood movie. Why is this a problem? Well if this was almost any other director’s work it would be praised for its skill–but when you by nature get compared to Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino and The Outlaw Josie Wales it becomes very hard to match up to that.
But, still, Hereafter is well done and points out some very important things.
Now I could go over all the artistic qualities of the film, but every other review I’ve seen has already done that. However, almost all those reviews seem to complain about one very important aspect of the film. They complain that they wanted to see something “more metaphysical”, that the film “didn’t give any answers”, that it just left you with questions. These complaints missed the point of the movie.
Hereafter deals with a medium who can channel the messages of those who have crossed over. He is unhappy with his life because (1) this gift has separated him to a large degree from those around him and (2) he feels he isn’t able to give people what they are looking for. The first point while true has been dealt with in just about every other avenue of media (Medium, Ghost Whisperer, a slew of movies and books) that has dealt with speaking to the dead. But the second point is probably more relevant.
The main character of the film, played by Matt Damon, is caused great pain partly because he cannot give people what they want. In the first scenes he does a reading for man and keeps telling him that he keeps hearing about a date in June and the man he does the reading for says he does not know what that means (but later that man admits to someone else he knew exactly what it meant, but couldn’t bring himself to say it at the moment) which leaves Damon’s character feeling like he failed to help the man. Damon’s character is plagued by the fact that he can’t give specific answers, that he doesn’t know where the souls go, that he can’t always get clear messages, and that it separates him from other people. But this is a completely accurate problem for real mediums. After all you’re dealing with souls that have had a whole life time to get used to using their voice to communicate while their thoughts are wandering all over the place. Think about it, how many random thoughts have you had in the last five minutes. Yes, you’ve gotten used to having a block between your brain and your mouth (at least I hope), but you mind is still a jumble of random ideas. If you grant that reincarnation exists, then you have to admit it took you years to relearn how to use vocal communication, it would take as long to learn to control your thoughts and communicate through just thought (and that’s not admitting that maybe not all mediums are perfect receivers). I’d like to think that the frustration that many audiences feel by not getting much detail out of the movie is meant to parallel the frustration a psychic feels trying to get information from the other side (but I can’t be sure that Eastwood was going for that).
One of the really nice points about the movie Hereafter is that it’s honest. While it very clearly states that there is an afterlife and that there are people who have the ability to communicate with it, there are also a whole slew of fakes. One of the characters, a young boy looking to talk to his dead twin brother goes through a short montage of fakes, scams, and crooks while looking for a real psychic.
However for all the frustration and chicanery, the central point of the movie is one that is very true: That while it may be comforting to know something from the other side and hear our lost loved ones, life isn’t that. It’s moving forward (in the first reading that Damon gives, in the life of the young boy who is wishing to talk to his brother, and in several other story lines in the movie). To not move forward and just focus on the past and our loss leads to great pain and a sense of being lost.
On the whole I would say you should see it, but you might want to get it from Netflix.