June 18, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 04 November 2010 12:06
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help parents choose what to watch with their children. This week’s pick is a new film from director Clint Eastwood, Hereafter.None of us knows, with certainty, what happens to us when we die. Our religious beliefs may create one picture while “near-death” accounts we hear may detail something different. We can only imagine, and believe, that an experience as significant as life on earth will be followed by something. But we don’t know the details.
Hereafter is a fascinating, thought-provoking study of one view of what may happen when people die. That it dares to ask difficult, fundamental questions — in the format of movie entertainment — demands that we pay attention. And that Hereafter comes from the steady, understated hand of director Clint Eastwood, makes the film something special. For an 80-year-old icon, at the height of his creativity as a movie maker, to dare to make such an unconventional film is remarkable, not only for its limited commercial prospects, but for what it reveals about his personal journey of faith and reason.
The film defies traditional description. Matt Damon is the top-billed star although he spends a great deal of time off-camera. That’s because the film follows the structure of such films as Short Cuts, Babel and Crash¸ by exploring three disconnected narratives in parallel time frames. Damon is a man who has the uncanny ability to speak with the dead. This “curse” as he describes — which limits his potential for personal relationships — is seen by his entrepreneurial brother as a rare opportunity to cash in. A second story focuses on a television reporter in Paris who is caught in a tsunami at an island resort. When she returns home, her near-death experience changes her view of living for today. And a third story introduces us to a young boy whose twin brother is tragically killed, leaving the survivor in search of answers that may never come.
With these three stories, Eastwood sets the stage for a most moving, meaningful exploration of what an afterlife may include. He never dares to pretend, or to try to be profound, but simply lets the subject matter unfold in that calm, confident way he directs most of his films. The result is, surprisingly, a near-perfect match of the material and the director. Because Eastwood is so subtle a filmmaker — and his movies rarely scream at high pitch — he carefully manages the potential drama of the situation he describes. In less subdued hands, the film could easily have gone over the top, given its subject matter. But Eastwood keeps it all in check, setting and maintaining a deliberately leisurely place, and lets us become comfortable with the content. And he never forgets he is making a movie and not delivering a lecture, resulting in the most visually interesting Eastwood film since his Letters from Iwo Jima masterpiece of a few years ago.
Adding to the film’s authenticity are the strong performances from a most diverse cast. Matt Damon continues to grow as an actor, in a strong, silent performance that smolders from the inside. Cecile De France is charismatic as the television reporter and Frankie and George McLaren are heartbreaking as the young brothers. Strong supporting turns also come from Richard Kind and Jay Mohr.
Hereafter is Eastwood’s personal statement and, perhaps, his most revealing film. That any man of his age, after all he has accomplished, would dare to make a film on this topic is quite something. Don’t go expecting typical movie Clint. But what you learn, and how it makes you think can surely make your day.
* Content: High. With its entertaining story, director Clint Eastwood examines fundamental issues of life and death, and how they may connect.
* Entertainment: High. Despite the somber content, Hereafter is consistently compelling, with a collection of intriguing characters and situations.
* Message: High. This nutritious film gives us a lot to consider, many issues to discuss, and important topics for families to discuss.
* Relevance: High. Any opportunity to share quality family experience is valuable; Hereafter can initiate important discussions with older children.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. There’s a great deal to talk about after sharing this most unusual, most memorable film.
(Hereafter is rated PG-13 for content and violent images and runs 129 minutes.)
5 Popcorn Buckets
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