George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American with a special connection to the afterlife dating from his childhood. French journalist Marie (Cécile de France) has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when London schoolboy Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren) loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each seeking the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might – or must – exist in the hereafter.
Genre master Clint Eastwood tries something different with the languid, introspective Hereafter
--and succeeds (for the most part). All of the characters at the heart of Peter Morgan's screenplay, which has the feel of a European art film, have suffered a loss or survived an ordeal. They feel disconnected from those who can't relate, which is most everybody. George Lonegan (Matt Damon, Invictus
), a Bay Area factory worker, developed psychic powers after a childhood illness but just wants to lead a normal life, despite his brother Billy's efforts to turn him into a John Edwards-like celebrity (Jay Mohr plays Billy). Marie LeLay (the versatile Cécile De France), a TV reporter, emerges unharmed from 2004's Indian Ocean earthquake, only to find her Parisian existence slipping away from her (the tsunami sequence that opens the film is frightfully convincing). And in London, soft-spoken 12-year-old Marcus (Frankie McLaren) loses his twin, Jason (George McLaren), only to end up in foster care. While George reaches out to a lovely, if insecure woman (the overly jittery Bryce Dallas Howard) he meets in a cooking class, Marie writes a book about her experience, and Marcus seeks spiritual guidance. In a Babel
-like turn of events, all three find themselves in the United Kingdom, where they cross paths, but what sounds contrived plays out in a surprisingly believable fashion. Eastwood and Morgan (The Queen
) don't presume to know what happens after death, suggesting instead that those who search for answers deserve something other than disrespect and derision. --Kathleen C. Fennessy