More than one filmmaker has joked about throwing in a literary reference to give critics something to talk about. With Hereafter, Clint Eastwood again takes on a warhorse genre—a strategy that garnered Million- Dollar Baby multiple Oscars and Yeats quotations in the Times— and there’s already plenty to chew over: Dead Zone–style hand-clutching premonitions, a goddamned tsunami, three serendipitous storylines (one subtitled in French, another starring identical Oliver-Twist-with-doper-mommy twins), and a London book fair featuring Derek Jacobi. Last but not least, Matt Damon plays a burnt-out psychic, who whiles away the evenings listening to Charles Dickens books-on-tape.
The Dickens appreciation helps tie stories together by triggering a London rendez-vous, and, perhaps more importantly, provides a precedent for said coincidences (one can only imagine what the novelist would have done with Googling scenes). More broadly, it helps soothe the admittedly puzzled critic who finds this movie engaging despite the slightly off or outright ridiculous adventures in why-not, unembarrassed Eastwood storytelling that transpire as a plucky twin brother, a shell-shocked news-show star (Cécile de France), and Damon’s besieged seer all seek relief from the great beyond.
Contrary to some advance reports, the way the stories converge in Peter Morgan’s screenplay is not the movie’s reason for being. Rather, the most compelling aspect of Eastwood’s film is the hunger of characters to reach departed loved ones—not to know what the afterlife is like (which Eastwood plays upon, rolling the "Hereafter" title over the opening shot of a beach resort), but to satisfy the insatiable desire to connect.
Opens October 15