In one of the sharpest openings in movie memory, Director Eastwood starts with a prolonged view of a devastating tsunami.

Hereafter

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

            What can I say? On Friday nights a while back our family watched Clint Eastwood play Rowdy Yates on Rawhide while two small boys wearing chaps rode their red rocking horse across the kitchen floor. Tell me it wasn't fifty years ago. One thing is sure: our hero has never disappointed us. As innovator and explorer he has directed and acted in many enduring movies that have often challenged both the audience and the prevailing culture. And now, here we all are watching his new movie and wondering at this tricky point in life whether there is or isn't a Hereafter. Though Clint Eastwood is far too smart even to suggest an answer, he has assembled a cast of terrific professionals to explore the question.
            In one of the sharpest openings in movie memory Director Eastwood starts with a prolonged view of a devastating tsunami. The fact that the very sight of it makes us go rigid is surely due to the actual recent fact of it. Several hundred thousand deaths by one wave erased forever our comfortable assumption that tsunamis are figments of science fiction. Now frozen in our chairs, we watch an exploration of mortality that is by turns intriguing and disappointing, ending finally in something of a fizzle. But that's the same fizzle we live with as we confront our own mortality. We can comfort ourselves with the certainty that if Eastwood had satisfied us with a movie solution, we would have called him a fraud.
            While the cast is not uniformly strong, the three leads are memorable for their skill and for understatement of a dramatic subject. Each has been touched by death. Marie LeLay (Cecile de France) is a Parisian television journalist who survives the tsunami and is haunted both by what she has seen and by what she has imagined. In London, Marcus (twins, Frankie and George McClaren) has lost his brother Jason to an accident. The two had been a survival team in the face of their mother's crippling addiction. In San Francisco, George for a time made a living from his psychic ability to get in touch with those in the Hereafter. Blindsided by the emotional complications that accompanied his gift, he becomes a heavy equipment operator; but those who need him find him.
            Frankie and George McLaren's joint creation of the small, bewildered, sad, and ultimately strong little boy is the standout performance in the film. Cecile de France's Marie is especially refreshing because she is no Hollywood cardboard cutout. Instead, she is unpredictable and charming in her confusion.
            All this leads us to the final fizzle. The three stories are pulled together in a silly set of contrived coincidences where we are simply abandoned without resolution. But, true to his western code, Clint Eastwood knows that as much as we'd all like to believe in some form of the Hereafter, neither he nor the rest of us will ever know until it happens.

 


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