Do you believe in a ‘Hereafter?’

By Malea Ritz

“Hereafter,” directed by Clint Eastwood, would seem to be the title of a thrilling horror movie; however it is quite the opposite. The movie is more of a tearjerker. It takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster, following the lives of three people that have experienced death in different forms.

The first character, Marie LeLay (Cecile de France), is a French journalist who is on vacation when disaster strikes. She is swept away by a giant tsunami wave and nearly dies. Just before she is revived, she experiences something unusual and unexplained. Marie recovers from her near death experience and attempts to return to her successful career. She is unable to focus on her job and has no choice but to take time off in order to get some answers.

George Lonegan, played by Matt Damon, is a working American trying to escape his past. George has the ability to make a connection with a person’s deceased loved ones. His psychic skills once provided him with a thriving career that he is attempting to put behind him. George struggles to have a normal life, free from death and sadness.

Marcus and Jason, played interchangeably by Frankie McLaren and George McLaren, are young identical twins who rely on each other to deal with their mother’s alcoholism and drug addiction. When their mother asks them to do an errand for her, Jason agrees to help, but is killed in an accident. This forces Marcus to look for answers about death.

In the end, Marie, George and Marcus are inadvertently brought together by their experiences. They use their past to help each other move on with their futures.

Eastwood does a phenomenal job of establishing an emotional connection between his audience and the characters in the movie. The calm and collected tone of the opening scene is there to show the viewers that the seemingly arbitrary choices one makes can determine one’s near future. Marie wants her lover to buy gifts for his kids; he refuses, as he is too tired to get out of bed. Marie decides that she will buy the presents herself, and in a matter of seconds her life changes forever.

The introductory scene for Marcus and Jason effectively displays their innocence. The boys save up all of their money to get a professional portrait taken, as a present for their mother. When Social Services comes to take their mother away, they try to cover for her. They are compassionate and naïve little boys. When Jason is bullied and killed, the audience’s heart bleeds for this child and his twin brother who is now alone. It is heart-wrenching to see Marcus looking at the empty bed next to him as he places Jason’s hat on his pillow and says goodnight to the jar that holds Jason’s remains. The close-ups on this little boy’s face, as tears slowly fall from his eyes, are emotionally distressing for the viewers. A scene in which Jason’s hat, which Marcus constantly wears, blows off his head displays the unexpected importance of little occurrences.

The audience finds themselves hoping for George to give the woman a reading who desperately bangs on his apartment door in hopes of talking to her son. Viewers are heartbroken after George seems to have found love, as he gives her a reading that releases her personal past and she never contacts him again.

The ending will likely leave audiences happy, but a little underwhelmed. It’s almost as if the ending purposely left the story open to a sequel.

If in seeing the commercials for “Hereafter” you were hoping for a thrilling horror movie, you will be surprised. It’s unexpectedly emotional, yet also deep and thought-provoking. What happens to us when we die? Watch the movie if you’re interested in finding out.

Malea Ritz can be reached at [email protected]