A movie with Stephen Spielberg and Clint Eastwood as producers, directed by Clint Eastwood, and with Matt Damon as the top-billing should tell you this is a movie worth renting without knowing anything else about it. I re-watched this movie this evening and was as surprised as the first time I viewed it about what a pleasant surprise it is.
This wasn’t a big blockbuster movie. There are a couple of reasons for that starting with it is a tear-jerker. It deals with people who have had near-death experiences or lost a love one and want to know what happens after a person dies. Deep questions no doubt and ones we all ask at some point in our lives. Americans in particular like big happy-ending movies and I am sure this hurt it at the box office but trust me when I say, the quality of this movie is better than most you will see.
It also suffers from an element that makes it good: the director. Clint Eastwood, somewhere around the middle of his career, decided that telling the story, and making characters the central theme of his movies was what mattered. As a result we have gotten movies like Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Invictus, Letters From Iwo Jima, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, just to name a few.
Eastwood has followed a pattern not unlike Woody Allen in that they make lower budget films, story is key to everything, if it is a hit great and if not they still break even financially so no one loses sleep. They don’t set out to make a blockbuster. They set out to tell a story. A fact I wish more directors and writers would try to copy.
Hereafter stars Matt Damon but the plot line follows three different characters in different countries, including one of a child who almost steals the movie, as they deal with the hereafter. Toward the end, the three characters do intersect in a roundabout way but I will provide no spoiler here.
What I like about Eastwood films including this one, is that Eastwood discounts nothing. In his movies, life is one big grey area. There is no certainty. So, while you have people who think they can communicate with the hereafter but are really frauds, there is the one odd person who leaves the door ajar just enough to let you consider the possibility that some bigger existence lays out there. While most movies portray people finding the answers they look for and having a question neatly answered and closed, Eastwood shows you that answers aren’t always found and that even if you do find an answer, walking through the door to get it may have devastating consequences. Most of all he brings you back to the fragility of life and that big grey area where, even while watching his film, you realize each moment you breathe is a precious gift that can be snatched away by the current of life itself. If you look at his films, I think they all pretty much follow that philosophy.
Like I said this is a tear-jerker but it is a worthy one. It is a little known overlooked gem in Eastwood’s repertoire that he has given us. One last thing I noticed that Eastwood and Allen have in common: Music. You will never watch an Eastwood or an Allen movie and not have a top rate score playing in the background. If you get the opportunity, you’ll find this movie worth the couple hours sitting on the couch to watch it.