Monthly Archives: October 2010

Hereafter, a review

I saw Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter today. It was a thoughtful, moving film Hereafter Posterthat reminded me of Gran Torino: Themes of loss, life’s fragility, the wisdom of children, and how our connections to others enrich our lives.

The main characters are Paris-based journalist Marie LeLay (Cécile De France), San Francisco factory worker George Lonegan (Matt Damon), and the young sons of a troubled, addicted mother, Marcus and Jason (Frankie McLaren and George McLaren) of London.

While Gran Torino was set in a Detroit neighborhood, Hereafter’s locations are more varied: Thailand, Paris, London, San Francisco. As in Gran Torino, the film shows the main characters experiencing an intense loss. Initially, their lives take on a fragile quality and we wonder if the characters will be able to put the loss into perspective and move on with their lives.

As the film progresses, each character struggles with finding balance. They each feel isolated and alone. Like Walt Kowalski’s reaction to Father Janovich’s supplications  in Gran Torino, they  experience frustration because those around them cannot understand their profound experience.

The pivotal moment in the movie provides each character with the support and connections to others they so crave. Like a balm, they also receive acknowledgment for how their profound experience has impacted their lives, and indeed their very essence.

As I watched Hereafter, I noticed how the children were portrayed with the utmost respect and empathy. Not as side characters, nor as comic relief, but as people whose cares and struggles were as important to the film as those of the adult characters. Marcus and Jason are to Hereafter as Sue and Thao were to Gran Torino – intelligent, compelling characters whose presences enriches the film.

I’ve always liked Clint Eastwood as an actor, but developed a deep respect for him after seeing his directorial efforts. Gran Torino is one of my favorite films and I’ve watched it many times… it’s difficult not to be moved by how Eastwood’s character is initially annoyed by the neighbor children (“Get off my lawn!!”), but then develops a bond and sense of responsibility for their well-being.

Hereafter is a love it or hate it film – I doubt folks will feel lukewarm about it:
* If you liked Gran Torino (or enjoy Eastwood as a diretor), you’ll probably like Hereafter

* However, if you are looking for a horror or action film, you’ll be disappointed.  The pacing is leisurely, and the film is far more thoughtful than action-filled.

While not for everyone, I loved Hereafter and highly recommend it to Eastwood fans.

Book Review – Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family

Katie Up and Down the Hall The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a FamilyI ran across this lovely nonfiction book by Glenn Plaskin when browsing Amazon last Friday night. Little did I know, I’d find it so absorbing I’d stay up very late to finish it.

It’s a simple yet beautiful story about a single man who adopts a dog, although he’d been afraid of dogs as a child. Little by little, he learned how to care for and train the dog. He benefitted from coaching offered by his friends with dogs.

Through his dog’s interactions with others, this man built strong bonds with his neighbors. Neighbors who’d formerly been strangers became part of his extended family. When the author encountered some of life’s inevitable speed bumps, the love of his newfound family and little Katie helped him get through it.

I loved this book. It resonated strongly for me, and in many ways mirrored my jack_littleexperience with Jack. I have formed relationships with so many neighbors, and my neighborhood now offers a strong sense of community for me. I love how people enjoy interacting with Jack. And I get a lot more walks in than I had before!

I strongly recommend Glenn Plaskin’s Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family, especially if you are a dog lover.