Sunday, 30 January 2011

Hereafter (2010)

Viewing Context:
Cineworld on a Saturday afternoon. Tasha and Corey had gone to the Panto and I wasn’t exactly dying to go, so had a rare Saturday afternoon to myself.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, surely I needn’t say more. I always have time for this man’s films, despite thinking that Changeling was pretty underwhelming and I was never inspired to see Invictus. But the man that helmed The Outlaw Josey Wales, Mystic River, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby always deserves attention.
Written by Peter Morgan, who wrote Frost/Nixon, The Damned United and The Last King of Scotland. Frost/Nixon veing the highlight there.

What Happened:
Three stories from three different parts of the world, all dealing with issues of death in their own way. Matt Damon’s George Lonegan struggles to connect with anyone due to his gift/curse of being able to see and speak to the deceased loved ones of anyone he touches. The young Marcus in London is dealing with the loss of a loved one and Marie Lelay (Cécile De France) in Paris comes to terms with - and is increasingly intrigued by - her near death experience, where she caught a glimpse of what may be to come.

As well as its obvious themes of death and mortality, which was well served by featuring the three separate plot-lines; a poignant way of showing how these issues have very different manifestations, but are quite a unifying feature between all cultures.
As well as this obvious point, the film had a pretty anti-capitalist sentiment. This never seemed clunkily wedged in, but nor did it directly relate with the issues of mortality. It is possible that it is just one of those things, when a writer and/or director has a particular world view, they cannot help but apply it to their craft.
Marie works for a left wing news company, who highlight and criticise the excesses of capitalism. e.g. the exploitation of developing world labour. That very news company exposes its own double values as it appears to be more bothered about viewing figures and its image than it is for the values it claims to uphold. Marie’s involvement in this life and subsequent separation from it is symbolised through her billboard advertisement. Then there was George’s brother, who was obsessed with monetising and creaming profit out of George’s curse. Most of these features are not rammed down your throat, but are always prominent: Background issues of industrial relations and lay-offs, clips of news reporting on record bonuses and energy companies’ profits. Even a scene at a funeral, where it is clear that the vicar is keen to get this low attended budget funeral out of the way so he can get on with the next much more extravagant, well attended - not to mention higher paying - funeral, which is already waiting at the door as the grieving family are ushered out. Examples like this, where the incentives of ‘the market’ have entered such a personal domain are what sets this film up as firmly anti-capitalist (or at least the excessive state in which it currently exists).

What it did particularly well:
I thought it juggled the three plot-lines really well, but I am already pre-disposed to be in favour of films with more characters; it is just easier to get more points of view and angles in without crow-barring them in through a limited cast of characters. Having said that it, can be done wrong but I think this did it right, as there was a distinct point for each strand and they were all needed to complete the message it was trying to convey.
It also did a good job at highlighting the fragility of mortality by including both a natural disaster and a terrorist attack, both of which taking the characters unaware and reminding the viewer - through contemporary real-life events - how quickly and suddenly life can be taken away.

What unimpressed or didn't quite reach potential:
Having seen so many films recently with great use of music, the music in this film always seemed a little jarring, obtrusive, or like it was forcing me to think in a certain way at times. This manipulation should be much more subtle and go unnoticed in order to be successful.
Also, as good as the boys were at acting... when they weren’t talking, there were a couple of horrifically clunky lines of dialogue.

Performance of the film:
Performance of the film was Cécile De France (I couldn’t quite place her while watching but since learned that she was the girl in Switchblade Romance). She outclassed everyone in this film, including Matt Damon, who effortlessly played his part adequately but never really had the space to excel.

Scene of the film:
The opening scene really got the film off to a good start. I didn't see what was coming straight away and it really put up the stakes early on, introducing the theme of mortality. I was already invested in the character involved at this early stage and having read nothing about the film, I had no idea what was going to happen. Obviously you are already reading something and therefore this may not have as much of an effect on you.

Most outstanding or memorable feature:
Having three distinct, yet related plotlines, with three sets of characters that each individually engaged me. Plus, the fact that they all dealt with the same issue but from different perspectives was a good piece of storytelling.

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