Charleston fans of Clint Eastwood can see Hereafter, a new movie opening here October 22.
In old age, director Clint Eastwood continues to explore new fields of wonder with his highly original and soul-stirring movies. In this meditative and almost contemplative drama, he weaves the stories of three very different people together as they seek in their own ways to come to terms with death, loss, and their connections with others.
The sophisticated and elegant screenplay is by Peter Morgan, best known for Frost/Nixon and The Queen. It was generated shortly after he lost a dear friend in an accident. Hereafter is the kind of movie that speaks softly to us and demands that we let it simmer a while before we evaluate it. We need time to sift through the many emotional and spiritual meanings conveyed in the experiences of the three lead characters.
Eastwood and Morgan refuse to take sides for or against psychic mediums, the ultimate nature of near-death experiences, or communication between those of us in this world and those on the other side. Instead they remain open to these possibilities and their relevance to those whose lives have been transformed by these experiences of love.
Marie Lelay (Cecile De France) is a popular French anchorwoman and political journalist in Paris who is vacationing in a small seaside town in Indonesia with her producer boyfriend Didier (Thierry Neuvic). A tsunami slams into the beach and sends a raging torrent of water through the streets of the town, collapsing houses and buildings, capsizing cars and breaking palm trees like twigs. Marie is caught in the wave, is struck by debris, suffers a concussion, but unlike so many others, she is pulled from the water. Before she is revived, she has a near-death experience where she is transported into a blurry realm of light filled with other beings.
Although Didier is able to shake off this nightmare experience and return to work in Paris, Marie finds that something has happened to her as a result of experiencing and surviving death. At work, she finds it hard to focus, making Didier suggest she take some time off. She feels isolated in her need for spiritual insight into what happened to her. At dinner, she asks him what he thinks about death, and he responds that there is nothing after it but a deep void.
George (Matt Damon) is a San Francisco psychic who has had an active practice, a website, and a following. But he is troubled by his gift and the isolation and loneliness it has brought him. He has given up doing readings with people who want to contact loved ones who have died. “A life that’s all about death,” he says, “is no life at all.” But his brother Billy (Jay Mohr) wants him to return to being a psychic and even volunteers to fund the operation.
To escape from this internal struggle, George has joined an Italian cooking class where he is partnered with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), who quickly makes it very clear that she likes him and wants to establish an intimate relationship. But true to form, when she finds out that he has psychic gifts, she convinces him to give her a reading. It does not go well, and George has one more piece of evidence that seeing into people’s souls can be a curse to anyone who desires a normal life. His only other solace is listening to CD recordings of the works of Charles Dickens, read by Derek Jacobi. Both George and the Victorian author have many ghosts in their heads.
Jason (George McLaren) and Marcus (Frankie McLaren) are twins who live with their drug-addicted mother, Jackie (Lyndsey Marshal), in a working-class neighborhood in London. Jason was born 12 minutes before his brother and is the more social and decisive of the two. When he is struck and killed by a car, Jason is crushed and depressed. The social workers from Family Services, who have had their eye on Jackie for a while, decide that it is best for Marcus to go into a foster home. Although he is welcomed by his new family, there is only one thing that interests him: making contact with Jason. He borrows some money from his foster parents and begins visiting an odd assortment of people claiming to be psychics or mediums. He doesn’t have much success – until he stumbles upon a website about George’s psychic readings.
Marie, George, and Marcus seem destined to meet each other, and they do at the London Book Fair. Marie has taken some time off from broadcasting, intending to write a biography of politician Francois Mitterand, but what really has captured her imagination is her near-death experience. She travels to the Alps and meets with Dr. Rousseau (Marthe Keller), who runs a hospice there and has documented many accounts by those who have traveled to the next dimension. Her description of a NDE matches Marie’s experience during the tsunami.
Marie decides to write a book titled Hereafter. Months later, she goes to do publicity in London. George, who is doing a Dickens sightseeing tour, attends a reading by Derek Jacobi at the Book Fair and happens to notice Marie’s book signing. He clearly admires her courage for addressing a subject that is not popular with the public. Marcus happens to be the Book Fair, too, to meet a former child of his foster parents. He recognizes George as the psychic whose website he’s visited. Hoping to get him to contact Jason, Marcus follows him back to his hotel.
Hereafter reveals how uncomfortable people get when thinking about death and what happens after death. There is a great urge to know and a pulling back from those who might be able to provide some of the answers. Young Marcus represents the yearning to know what happens. Marie wants to present the evidence from near-death experiences and is surprised that she meets with such resistance to her approach. And George knows more than he wants to. By the end of the film, we can’t tell if their desires are realized, but we can hope they discover that there is peace in living with the Mystery.
Where and When?
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros. 10/10 Feature Film
PG-13 – mature thematic elements, disturbing disaster and accident images, language
This movie review was written by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. Please visit their wonderful website Spirituality and Practice.