New on DVD/Blu-ray: Hereafter (2010)

Who hasn’t wondered what awaits us in the afterlife? If, that is, you believe that there is such a thing as an afterlife. Frankly, I’m not all that certain there is, but I’m open-minded enough about the topic that Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” made for a very interesting watch. The supernatural drama arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download March 15, 2011 from Warner Home Video.

George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American with a special connection to the afterlife dating from his childhood. French journalist Marie (Cécile de France) has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when London schoolboy Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren) loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each seeking the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might – or must – exist in the hereafter.

The Movie:

“Hereafter” qualifies as a supernatural drama, since it does in fact deal with the supernatural in a dramatic, albeit non-horrific way. There are no ghosts, no wandering spirits, and director Clint Eastwood has very carefully crafted a movie that never tries to scare or even creep you out in anyway. The only way you could possibly feel uncomfortable watching “Hereafter” is if you’re one of those who thinks “belief” is for dummies, in which case you probably shouldn’t be watching “Hereafter” in the first place.

For the more open-minded of you out there, “Hereafter” is a carefully drawn study of three different people from three different parts of the world all trying to deal with the same topic — death. Matt Damon stars as George, a real-life psychic in San Francisco who has, not entirely successfully, tried to distance himself from his former life as a celebrity psychic. French actress Cécile de France is Marie, a French journalist who miraculously survives a killer tsunami while on vacation, an experience that has forever changed her view on life and death. The third section of the film focuses on Marcus, a young English boy whose twin brother is killed in a car accident, leaving the boy to cope on his own, thanks to a drug-addled mother who is now lost in the system. (The boys are played by real-life twins Frankie and George McLaren.)

“Hereafter” tracks its three disparate characters as they cope with their daily lives, and it’s not until the Third Act that the three individuals find themselves converging on the same city and meeting one another. George and Marcus’ encounter feel more natural, while George and Marie’s coming together is a little awkward and probably a little too fast, perhaps a fault of the script needing the three to finally meet and “connect” after following them for so long as separate individuals. You really get the sense that the filmmakers wanted everything to come together so much that they forced it to happen, whether it felt right or not.

Clint Eastwood directs “Hereafter” in his usual, and some would say “meandering” style. That is to say, he doesn’t push the story as much as he allows it to play itself out. There is a very deliberate, almost easygoing style to “Hereafter” that may leave some viewers anxious, but I found it to be very natural. No surprise. I’ve always loved Eastwood’s deliberate directing style, and this is no exception. Matt Damon is quite good as George, an average looking American man in almost every way, except for the fact that he actually can make contact with the dead. Cécile de France (“High Tension”) is also very good as a journalist who finds that her newfound perspective on life doesn’t exactly have a whole lot of support from her usual circle of acquaintances. De France’s storyline, like George’s, is captivating, and I kind of wish she and George never crossed paths, because as mentioned, it just didn’t feel very natural to me. This is really my biggest gripe with the film, and it’s quite a minor one, as the rest of the movie is worth every minute.

“Hereafter” features some notable supporting work by Bryce Dallas Howard as George’s “too good to be true” potential love interest and Jay Mohr as George’s ambitious brother. The script by Peter Morgan (“The Queen”) never takes the easy way out when it comes to George’s relationships, which is a plus. George lives a very solitary and lonely existence, and Morgan makes everything about him feel real. Likewise with young Marcus’ loss, which features outstanding work by the twins. Thierry Neuvic, as Marie’s lover and co-worker who turns his back on her after her newfound beliefs clash with everything he believes (or in this case, doesn’t believe), is also noteworthy.

For those looking for some mind-blowing interpretation of the afterlife, “Hereafter” is going to disappoint. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or not, but death seems kind of, well, boring. Apparently dying is pretty awesome (at least according to one of the spirits George contacts), except when some guy shows up and asks to “make contact” with you so one of your living relatives can bug you for, well, advice. That’s gotta suck.

Blu-ray Combo Pack Special Features:

  • Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon lead a journey into Hereafter to explore the world of skeptics, psychics and mediums, and the possibility of life after death.
  • Featuring 9 Focus Points:
  • – Tsunami! Recreating a Disaster
    – Is There Life After Death?
    – Clint on Casting
    – Delving into the Hereafter
    – Twin Bonding
    – French Speaking French
    – Why The White Light?
    – Hereafter’s Locations – “Casting” the Silent Characters
    – The Eastwood Experience

  • The Eastwood Factor: 90 minute documentary in HD

Buy “Hereafter” on DVD or Blu-ray from Warner Home Video March 15, 2011.