Friday, October 29, 2010

Hereafter [2010]

MPAA (PG-13), USCCB (A-III), Roger Ebert (4 stars), Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s Review -

I liked Hereafter. But then I’m finding that the movies I go to, I already generally expect to like (for one reason or another) even before going to see them. It’s the movies that I make a point of not seeing that I’d probably give low ratings ;-).

Having said that, I’m more or less certain that this movie is not for everyone and not for every situation. I would think that this movie would not be particularly good for a “first” or even “early date.” Why?

Well, the movie is rather sad. That ought not to be altogether surprising, since Hereafter is about death and the hope of many of communicating with loved ones who have died. Of the three stories that are interwoven to make the tale, the story of the young boy in London who misses his brother who dies early in the movie is particularly sad. The other two stories are about a French journalist (played by Cécile De France) who survives a tsunami in Asia and is changed by the experience. Finally there is George Lonegan, San Francisco psychic (played by Matt Damon), who is tormented, really, by having an apparent ability since childhood to communicate with the dead. George finds this not necessarily a blessing, as a sweet and somewhat desperate/lost young woman who wishes strike-up a relationship with him finds out (again, Hereafter is really _not_ an “early in the relationship” date movie).

Is the movie respectful of the topic of death and “the hereafter”? I do believe it is, as one would expect that from a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood, however, can’t seem to resist making a cheap-shot against an over-confident, tin-eared type of Christianity, which in this movie, is represented by a preacher that the young boy found on YouTube. In perhaps a well-meaning though somewhat oblivious way (to the loss felt by those mourning the loss of a loved one) the Preacher confidently proclaims “Concerning death? Well, if you believe in Jesus Christ, you have nothing to worry about.”

The tone in that very short “YouTube” clip is certainly cheap. It was picked or even _manufactured_ to make the point that death is nothing to be jargony or flippant about.

However, obviously, as a Catholic Priest I do fundamentally agree with that Preacher – that Jesus came here and rose from the dead to show us that even death does not have the word, that the final word belongs to God. And that this God is a God who both sees the falleness/brokeness of this world and who loved us enough to try to assure us that despite all the pain and injustice in this world, that’s not the way it is supposed to be and that none of these things, not even death has the final word.

This message, which I do believe, in fact, to be fundamentally the Gospel of the Risen Jesus Christ, is completely compatible with this movie without invoking any of the arrogance that Eastwood seems to object to.

As for the movie's portrayal of the “hereafter” itself, it is portrayed in a staccato fashion that is respectful of pretty much everyone who’d believe in an afterlife and in the justice and mercy toward the innocent dead that would demand it.

All in all, with the exception of the cheap shot toward _a type_ though certainly not all of Christianity, I think the movie was well done, and could promote some good discussion about life, death and the need for justice and mercy both in this world and in the next.

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