Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

‘Hereafter’: Eastwood’s latest triumph

Clint Eastwood the director has nothing to prove to audiences anymore. Even when his latest film was in unfamiliar territory for both him and his audience, I never once felt the insecurity that would most likely accompany the same material in the hands of less experienced directors.

“Hereafter” is being described as Eastwood’s “French film,” but I am not so quick to deem it as such. Instead, this may be best described as Eastwood’s most “adult” film, if only because of its laconic style. This characteristic combined with the subject matter further reinforces this claim.

This film requires the patience of our attention-deficient culture. Some may argue this is a weakness that ultimately brings down the film, despite its visual strengths and wonderful acting. To those people: you are missing the point.

This film consists of three tightly woven narratives. One involves George (Matt Damon), a man who appears to be an actual psychic, although he has given up this practice. Despite this “retirement,” he is constantly called upon by both strangers and those close to him to do readings. Throughout the film, George maintains that this connection with the dead is a curse, and it is not too hard to see why – it impacts his ability to foster new relationships.

The other two threads involve French television journalist Marie and a young English boy named Marcus. Marie, while abroad, becomes a victim of a destructive tsunami. She appears to be slipping into death, only to be resuscitated. This near-death experience, which Eastwood leaves ambiguous, consumes Marie upon her return to her life as usual.

Marcus has a twin brother, Jason, who is killed trying to escape a violent group of bullies. Marcus is sent to foster care because his mother is a heroin addict and an alcoholic. The two people he most loves are taken away from him, and Marcus struggles to cope with the reality of his new circumstances.

Although these three narratives are concerned with themes of death, the movie is about life. It deals with life’s possible connection with the spiritual.

It also shows how life can connect us all, even through death. Through the roles that death plays in these characters’ lives, we are brought to the singular moment where their lives are intertwined. This is precisely why I claim that critics of the film are missing the point.

This movie is all about the emotional journey of the characters. In turn, these emotions lead them to make choices that will ultimately bring them and the film to their ultimate yet seemingly inevitable conclusion, despite how coincidental things may seem (How fitting it is, then, that George’s literary hero is Charles Dickens.)

Maybe it is these coincidences that are our connection to whatever concept, notion or reality of the hereafter exists in this film. The subway sequence involving Marcus and his hat and the final scene of the movie suggest that I am not far off in my understanding.

The payoff of this movie depends upon the tedious setup, which is why I dismiss the aforementioned critical response to the film’s pacing and length. I think any cuts in the film weaken the emotional threads of the movie. And for the conclusion to work (as in any movie), these threads must remain intact.

If my above analysis sounds hokey or confusing, it is because the film is dealing with something so uncertain and divisive; after all, consideration of the idea of an afterlife is no picnic.

Despite all of this, skeptics of the hereafter or life after death will find this movie satisfying. This film connects itself to possible “spirituality” and the afterlife without being overtly spiritual.

It is a moving story, regardless of one’s belief about the subject matter. This universality, besides echoing the themes of the movie, is what makes it such a wonderful film. If I am wrong about this, though, at least we are all left believing in one thing at the end: the status of Clint Eastwood as one of America’s finest filmmakers of all time.

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