Films/Theater Reviews — 12 October 2010
A Sneak Preview: Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter

This Review Contains No Spoilers

The 2010 New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center came to a close this past Sunday after 17 days of movie premieres of domestic and foreign films, conversations with big name directors, and a plethora of newly released documentaries. was on hand for a select screening of the new Clint Eastwood film “Hereafter,” starring Matt Damon & Cecile de France, as the festival closed its curtains on the 2010 season.

An 80 year old Clint Eastwood took the stage to present the final film of the NYFF, giving thanks to the contributors of both “Hereafter” and the festival itself, amidst a cacophony of standing ovation and crowd applause from the moviegoers at the Starr Theater at Alice Tully Hall.  Normally Orchestra seats in Row B at the historic performance hall would have you doing backflips, but to watch a 2 hour film from said distance leaves an indescribable neck soreness after from watching the big screen.  But when the iconic actor/director made his first appearance onstage no more than ten feet from us, we realized how special the location actually was.

The movie, which opens domestically on October 22nd, follows three separate character arcs that are all intertwined by the same common thread: questioning mortality.  And even though each character’s experience is unique and each one occurs in different parts of the world, their losses force them to connect with each other.  Matt Damon plays George Lonegan, a man who can communicate with the recently deceased family members of any character that he touches.  Once a virtue, the gift has since become a painful vice for Lonegan, who decides he can no longer use his foresight because of the subsequent emotional strain placed upon him by doing so.  Although he recognizes the incredible power he is blessed with, Lonegan is stubbornly opposed to making these connections.  But soon Lonegan realizes that his adherence to his own selfish ways is actually causing more harm than good, he is forced to reassess his priorities and consider using his prowess for financial gain.

“Hereafter” has a run time of 126 minutes and aside from the questionable casting as Jay Mohr as Damon’s brother, and the surprising number of French subtitles, the movie is actually quite good.  From watching the film’s trailer, we questioned whether we could handle what appeared to be an emotionally draining movie.  Surprisingly however the heavier moments were not as melancholy as anticipated, which was wholeheartedly welcomed by this writer.  Unfortunately, this could also mean that the film may have missed on its initial intention, failing to emotionally connect with the audience.

The focus of the film’s story inspires and intrigues even more so than the film itself- the question of mortality and what happens after death is the introspective question that we all examine and that nobody will ever be able to answer.  There’s an absolute uncertainty to it coupled with the fear and the inevitability to the conclusion of life.  What this movie accomplishes is the examination of these pensive questions with a certain innocence in searching for what is essentially unanswerable.  And as each character struggles with distinct fatalities, we recognize how relatable the circumstances are as we yearn to cope with them.  “Hereafter” makes a valiant effort but falls well short of Eastwood’s more recent films.  But the high standard set by his recent works (“Gran Turino,” “Million Dollar Baby”) aside, and we are left with a solid, thought provoking film about life’s most perplexing question: its end.

-  Jane Van Arsdale

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