AWFJ Women On Film – “Hereafter” – Review by Susan Granger

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The elegance and versatility of 80 year-old Clint Eastwood never ceases to amaze, along with his remarkable productivity, including “Invictus,” “Gran Torino,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Changeling,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” and “Mystic River.” His latest – and most unconventional – challenge is a tantalizing, melancholy meditation on mortality and the afterlife.

The story begins in 2004 in a tropical beach resort in Indonesia, where French TV news anchor Marie Lelay (Belgian-born European actress Cecile de France), vacationing with her lover/colleague, nearly drowns in the monstrous Indian Ocean tsunami; when she returns to Paris, she’s haunted by vague, inexplicable, paranormal visions and discovers that her life has changed completely. (This opening segment is entirely, disconcertingly, in French with English subtitles.) Then in London, a shy, lonely lad, Marcus, mourns the accidental death of his identical twin brother, Jason (both schoolboys are alternately played by George and Frankie McLaren), along with inability of his junkie, working-class mother to take proper care of him; desperate to contact Jason, young Marcus ventures into the British psychic community that’s obviously filled with fakes and frauds. And in San Francisco, George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is an authentic but anguished psychic who has discovered that his bizarre ‘gift’ alienates him from those around him, leaving him spending his nights at home alone, listening to audio recordings of Charles Dickens novels, longing for companionship and understanding, particularly with flirtatious Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) whom he meets in a cooking class. As George astutely observes, “A life that’s all about death is no life at all.”

Screenwriter Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon,” “The Queen”) artfully interweaves the three diverse – but tormented – storylines which eventually, metaphysically converge, somewhat reminiscent of “Crash” and “Babel.” Cinematographer Tom Stern subtly, handsomely differentiates the respective settings and the CGI/FX tsunami is horrifyingly breathtaking. Plus, Eastwood’s original musical score complements each scene.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hereafter” is a pensive, leisurely yet curiously compelling, spiritual 7, attempting to simplistically explore the eternal, intangible unknown, ultimately emerging as unenlightening and unfulfilling.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.