HEREAFTER: Eastwood’s Afterlife drama is Dead in the Water

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Matt Damon, Cécile de France, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren. 129 mins
Rating: Two/Five
In cinemas January 28

Following in the schmaltzy footsteps of Crash and Babel, Clint Eastwood’s overlong drama Hereafter uses three intertwining plotlines to demonstrate the inescapable interconnectedness of humanity and his own lack of originality. French journalist Marie (Cécile de France) has a near-death experience when she’s caught in a tsunami; Marcus (Frankie McLaren) is an English boy whose twin brother is killed in a car accident, and George (Matt Damon) is an enigmatic labourer burdened with an ability to communicate with the dead.

Damon’s storyline proves intriguing as George connects with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), a vulnerable young woman whose imprudent curiosity about George’s ability ultimately reveals it to be a curse, rather than a blessing. This emotional and superbly acted storyline could have been made an affecting feature, but Eastwood feels the need to hammer home the shocking message that death affects us all and so shoehorns in his other two dull and surprisingly detached narratives, which aren’t helped by blandness of their lead actors. Young actor Frankie McLaren and his brother George are particularly awkward, leading one to suspect that they’re the favourite nephews of one of the casting directors, as talent clearly had nothing to do with that decision.

As the characters negotiate their way through their respective experiences of death, Eastwood tries desperately to wrangle some emotion out of his awkwardly trifurcated narrative, but his tactics – a reference to the London Tube bombings, teary-eyed boys and a score comprised of maudlin violins – feel empty and manipulative. Far from being an interesting exploration of what happens after we die, Eastwood demonstrates that not only does he not have answers, but he has no real interest in the question.

Like a fraudulent psychic, Hereafter’s sentimental lip service to meaningful subjects may con the incredibly naïve, but under any inspection is quickly revealed to be nothing more than a transparent and meaningless piece of hokum.
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