Hereafter

For the first few minutes, you'll think you walked into a disaster flick by mistake, but hang in there. Marie Lelay (Cécile De France, Around the World in 80 Days) is a high-powered TV reporter on vacation in an island paradise with her boyfriend/producer Didier (Thierry Neuvic) when a tsunami hits. Tsunamis, as I learned in my Geophysics class, are caused by earthquakes in or near the sea bed, or underwater volcanic activity, and shouldn't be called tidal waves because they have nothing to do with tides. We also usually have advance warnings of possible tsunamis, but not this time.

The wave wipes out half the town, and the death toll is high. For a few minutes, that toll even includes Marie, who is, briefly, technically dead. During that time, she sees dead people, though not in the creepy Sixth Sense kind of way. She soon discovers, though, that talking about seeing dead people, no matter how obliquely, just makes people look at you funny.

George (Matt Damon, Green Zone) sees dead people all the time, though again, not exactly in the creepy way. He talks to them, too, or at least they talk to him. He doesn't seem to be able to ask them questions. It must be draining and awful, though, to hear all these secrets of the dead and be stuck knowing things about complete strangers that they might not ever tell you even if you were best friends.

George was a professional psychic for a while, under the management of his older brother, Billy (Jay Mohr, Suicide Kings, a film that I happen to like it and which he's pretty good in). Finally he couldn't take it anymore, and now works in a factory, leading Billy to think he's insane for passing up all that money. Billy is one step up from a con artist, as far as I can tell, but George happens to be the real thing. He's also incredibly lonely, because face it, who wants their first date to be all about the people they've loved who have died, and possibly also the terrible things those dead people have done? But he tries to get out -- he takes a cooking class run by Steve Schirripa of The Sopranos and meets Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard, who was sort of in Spider-Man 3).

Meanwhile, in London, twins Marcus and Jason (played by Frankie and George McLaren, I think interchangeably) are muddling through life covering for their drug-addicted mother so child services won't take them away. When Jason -- the elder by twelve minutes and Marcus' protector -- is killed in a freak accident, Marcus can't cope. He seems to run wild, avoiding any and all adult supervision as he encounters every fake psychic and crackpot scientist in the greater metropolitan area. He also finds George's website -- BIlly thoughtfully left it up in case George changed his mind -- but presumably any emails from there are just going into the ether.

It takes a while -- quite a while, actually -- but all three characters eventually run into each other. Things wrap up maybe a little too neatly, but after all the talk of death over the previous two hours, it's kind of a relief. That makes three and three-quarters out of five. Whichever twin is playing Marcus, he does a good job, so add Clint Eastwood to the very short list of directors who can manage that particular feat. Marie's storyline didn't thrill me, but the actress was great and I liked the character a lot. And Matt Damon was Matt Damon. So all in all, a strangely enjoyable two-hour discussion about death and grief. Who knew?

Image: 
George and Melanie stumble through the worst first date in history.

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