Hereafter begins with a recreation of the 2004 tsunami that devastated South-east Asia. It’s a tremendous sequence, eschewing overwrought visuals and concentrating on the suddenness and the sheer kinetics of the event. After it’s over, director Clint Eastwood seems to say, okay, everyone’s had their fun, now it's time to watch a real movie. The result is a film about the afterlife that’s moving at times but ends up frustratingly slight.
Matt Damon plays George Lonegan, a psychic whose talent is forging a “connection” with people who’ve recently lost someone close, and helping them contact the spirit. Marie Lelay is a French reporter who, after a near-death experience in the tsunami, has started having visions of her own. Marcus is a young British boy who can’t let go of the memory of his lost twin. Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan seem to set these stories up to converge, but then refuse to let them do so till the very end. Instead, we get subplot on subplot, some of which involve Marcus’s drug addict mom, a potential love interest for George (Bryce-Dallas Howard in fine form) and Marie writing a book on the afterlife. Compared to his earlier Frost/Nixon, Morgan’s script is a letdown, trading insight for generalities. And even though Eastwood provides a lovely score and some witty directorial touches – a driver pausing to check his breath as an afterthought after hitting a kid in the street, an aerial pan of San Francisco as a nod to the opening credits staple in the Dirty Harry series – his treatment of the dead is too restrained and polite to bring the screen alive.
A version of this review appeared in Time Out Delhi.