Hereafter, Clint Eastwood’s new movie, is what you get when an 80 year old grandmaster visual storyteller at the height of his powers decides to explore the Big D. Death in a movie. In other words…
On the surface, this is three interlocking stories: a French journalist nearly drowns in a tsunami but is brought back, an ex-professional psychic tries to figure out how to live with what he can do, and a child loses his twin and tries to deal with his grief. But much more importantly, this movie is about death: grief, losing someone, what it feels like to die—and come back, religion, charlatan psychics, real psychics, the politics of discussing death, the taboo against discussing death, the desire to deny death’s existence, the peace of death, and above all, the joy of connection despite death.
But listen: this is NOT a downer movie, people!
And yet no facet of death is unexamined while the question of death is turned over and over like a pebble in your mouth. Every shot, the way the camera moves, the way the three stories intertwine, the beautiful music (which I noticed is also by Clint Eastwood), all of it feels on purpose, and combines to create, not a traditional narrative structure, but an experience that I wore, walking out of the theater, that is difficult to describe, but very real and translucent and wonderful none-the-less. All the while never for a moment feeling sappy or trite.
How did he do it?
This is one of the most beautiful, moving, lovely, thoughtful movies I have seen in a long, long time. Deep, slow, profound, but riveting. To me anyway. I couldn’t believe when it was over that it was 2+ hours.
It’s interesting, then, that rottentomatoes.com pegs it at about 51% (at the time of this writing). A measly 51% for a masterwork?!? One of the reviews even says they think Clint Eastwood might be senile.
Well, I guess either you love it, as half the reviewers seem to, or you really, really, really don’t get it. And it’s about half and half. Interesting that the movie itself speaks openly of the hostility people can have about talking about death. Perhaps there is some of that hostility in those negative reviews?
Hey, death is scary. Do what you’ve got to do.
Bottom-line: this is not a movie to take you out of your life—something I love, by the way, about many movies, that sweep-me-away feeling, that I-want-to-be-someone-else-for-two-hours feeling—no. This is a movie to put you squarely IN your life.
Slamdunk, Mr. Easwood, if you ask me. Thank you for making this beautiful film.