“I see a woman. Is this woman your wife?”

Is there an afterlife?  If so, where is it?  What is it like?  Is it the same for everybody, or is each experience different?  These are all questions we should be asking when we walk out of Clint Eastwood’s new psycho-drama.  Now I assure you that none of these questions remotely entered the back of my brain after seeing Hereafter.  This film is an experience like no other.  One thing I discovered in the midst of this long, dreary, snails paced stinker was that when everything appears to be right, it’s usually wrong.  The great director and the brilliant screenwriter (Peter Morgan of Frost / Nixon and The Queen) and the not-to-shabby actors involved here could not save this film from complete disaster.  Instead of the meaningful questions we should be asking coming out of the theatre, we ask ourselves, “Why?  Why does this movie exist?  For what purpose is this movie on this earth?  Why in the world would she do that and for what reason did he not do this?  What ever did I do to deserve this movie?”

            The plot of this endless ghost story goes something like this: some people die, some people survive, a guy goes to bed, a guy goes to cooking school, a kid brushes his teeth, a girl drives a car, a woman cries, a woman gets in her car and drive to Switzerland, everyone goes to England, and then it ends!  Now of course, those are the minor, minor plot points, but you wouldn’t know it from how long this movie takes to cover them.  The second scene had me counting ceiling panels.  I wanted to shout, “Get to the punch line already!” But of course I’m to disciplined to do that.  Now, here is the plot the way it’s supposed to be: George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a factory worker who is recovering from his old, abandoned life as a psychic.  It sounds bizarre, but you must understand that while most psychics are fakers and con-men, George really has the “gift”.  But of course George doesn’t want the gift.  His ability to know everything about people has made him afraid to touch anyone, and now he lives alone, unable to have a normal life.  Meanwhile on the shores of the Indian Ocean, a woman walks the streets when an enormous tsunami strikes the shore.  She gets swept away by the rushing water and while being carried by the wave, she passes out and drowns.  While in her unconscious (possibly dead state), she sees visions of people long dead and people she once knew.  When she wakes up, she sets about trying to prove that there is an afterlife.

Now, like any dutiful film goer would do, I assumed that these stories would all converge and come together, and then there would be a story about it.  I proved correct about the first point (they do all converge), but no story comes of it.  The reason no story comes of it is simply this: it happens way down at the end of the movie.  We wait two hours and nine minutes for something to happen and it never does.  I think the screenplay possibly wanted to be a romantic French film in which all the different lives and unconnected stories converge and become one, meaningful  and powerful story of love and hate.  Well, leave that to the French, because us Americans have no talent for that whatsoever.  The first scene of the movie (the tsunami scene) captured my attention immediately.  I thought, “What an excellent set-up).  Well, this was the only good scene in the film.  After the tsunami scene lives one long, drawn out, stupefying, boring scene after another.  There is a scene about mid-way through the film in which George agrees to do a “reading” for a person.  He takes her hands, gets a connection, and begins to tell her what he sees.  He describes her mother who has just passed on, and then her father, also recently dead.  But Daddy has a message, “I’m sorry for what I did all of those years ago.” Then the person, with tears in their eyes, gets up and leaves, never to be seen again.  What?!  Don’t we get any kind of pay-off at all?  There’s no elaboration, there’s no soul searching of any kind, just “Boo-hoo!  Good bye!” That sort of beating around the bush infects the entire film.  By the half an hour mark I was thinking, “Good God!  Get to the golly dang point!”

            The film plods along at a snail’s pace, never speeding up, never even starting.  It’s about as interesting as listening to monks chanting all day.  Not that I have anything against monks, but listening to a tuneless version of “Ave Maria” for a long period of time does not capture my attention.  The whole film becomes one long beginning after another.  I kept waiting for it to start and become an intriguing psycho-drama about psychics and the afterlife.  But at about the two hour mark, I realized that there would never be a middle or end.  It’s just one strung out beginning.  Nothing happens in the movie.  None of the characters change, nor do they seem to have any purpose other than to bore us out of our minds.  I was counting ceiling panels in the first thirty minutes.  Eventually the utter shock of how bored I felt went away, and I found myself laughing at the absolutely ridiculous things the script came up with to show to us.  One absurd scene features a young boy who lost his brother, and now he travels around looking for psychics to help him.  The scene is a montage of different psychics and their bizarre tricks.  Now this could be cute and amusing if done right, but it just falls flat because the scene takes some five minutes to get over with.  How in the world can you draw that out for five whole minutes?  Finally I gave up trying to understand or see where this awful clunker was headed and just sat back and laughed audibly at every stupid, psycho-babble phrase that came out of these characters’ mouths.  “I’m loosing him!  I’m loosing him!!” got a big laugh out of me. 

            Finally the credits started to role and I said, “Praise God and all his angels!  He is merciful!” I don’t know how I sat through this endless clunker, but I did.  I was aching with boredom by the time I got out of that theatre.  I can’t believe they drug this movie out to two hours and nine minutes.  It’s way too long for what it does, which is practically nothing.  To be glued to my seat, watching this drivel for that long was torturous.  But most of all, the story is just God-awful.  Here is a perfect example of film where nothing makes sense, nothing happens, and nothing is supposed to happen.  The movie is so bad for so long that it just puts us in a dreary and miserable mood the rest of the night.  Well, after this I have a lot of flossing to do.  What boring, pointless dreck this film turned out to be!

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents a Malpaso Production

Cast: Matt Damon, Cécile de France, George and Frankie McLaren, Thierry Neuvic, Rebekah Staton, Jay Mohr, Declan Conlan, Derek Jacobi, Steven R. Schirripa, Bryce Dallas Howard.  Directed by Clint Eastwood

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language.  Release Date: 22 October 2010

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