I saw Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter today. It was a thoughtful, moving film that 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.