Movie Review: Hereafter

By Matthew Huntley

October 20, 2010

He's even serious in the shower.

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Because the film is about the afterlife, we assume it will eventually come back to a traditional formula and perhaps play out like a ghost story or supernatural thriller, but it transcends such a formula and instead goes places that are more interesting and unexpected. Consider the blossoming romance between George and Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), his cooking partner from night class. They’re attracted to each other and eventually find their way back to George’s apartment. Naturally, we expect one thing to happen, but then something else does, and it’s completely believable. I’ll not reveal what it is, but the film is full of moments like this, which makes it hard to know where it’s going or what will happen.


The film’s only notable flaw is its pacing. Like many Clint Eastwood films, this one moves slower than necessary. I think it’s because Eastwood films too many shots that are simply transitions from one scene to another and because he holds on them for too long. For instance, there’s a shot of George getting ready to leave his apartment and we see him place a shirt out to wear. We also see Marcus slowly walk to a computer before searching for psychics on Google. There’s also a lingering shot of George and Melanie driving away in her car. Normally such moments shouldn’t stand out, but in the case of Hereafter, they do. I understand Eastwood wanting to create a certain level of naturalism and not wanting to be in any rush, but I think a tighter editing job might have generated greater tension and moved each story along with more urgency. We’re still interested in everything that’s going on, but I think a faster pace would have made it more exciting to watch.

After seeing Hereafter, I’m still not a firm believer in psychics or visions of the afterlife, but the film convinced me it’s an area of science (as well as spirituality) the public should take more seriously and without shame. I’m curious to know just how much clandestine research is being conducted because its believers are shunned by mainstream culture. Are there really secret laboratories? For me, it’s a phenomenon that’s got to be experienced to be believed, but just as we find ourselves so easily wrapped up in the day to day events of our living lives, we should be able to consider what lies beyond our world with a clear and open mind. That’s one of the lasting lessons Hereafter teaches us, along with being a thoughtful, uncommon drama.

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