The music in Clint Eastwood's new movie “Hereafter” often made me feel like I was in a candle shop during the Christmas season. The director has wallowed in sentimentality before, but he reaches new heights of Kleenex with this story about a psychic (Matt Damon), whose gift has become a curse of loneliness. The problem with the sentimentality this time is that it's largely empty. The movie has a couple more stories to globe trot among, each compelling on their own but diluting the overall effect. By the end all that's left are tear-jerking emotional cues covering the lack of a discernible point.
The film opens with one of several imaginative set pieces, a tsunami hitting a seaside resort, Eastwood following the surging sea as it tears through a little beach town like it was made of matchsticks, nearly killing a French journalist (Cecile De France), who later claims to have had a near-death experience. It happens to resemble the “readings” of San Francisco resident George (Damon), a real psychic who has shelved his gift, and people in general, to avoid the horror of having to live through their painful losses. Illustrating just such a tragedy, Eastwood includes the story of Jason and Marcus (George and Frankie McLaren), precocious twins living across the pond in London who have an inspiring bond that is the movie's highpoint.
The movie spends most of its two hours hopscotching among these three sets of characters, detailing their individual experiences with the afterlife. The journalist has trouble getting her mind off her near-death experience; George struggles to develop relationships; Marcus' loses interest in life after the loss of his brother. Eastwood's film is very slow and ponderous. The only suspense that builds is how he will get these characters together by the end, though you know he will.
The most interesting things about these people turn out not to be the eerie, unexplainable phenomenon hovering around the movie's edges, but the everyday moments in their lives: the journalist's inability to get back to work immediately after cheating death; George's idiosyncratic, touching loneliness (how many supernatural movies are willing to spend several scenes in a cooking class?); and, most poignantly of all, the close relationship of Marcus and Jason, whose response to tragedy feels as tangible and earth shaking as anything in Eastwood's body of work.
I found these kids' real life to be much more convincing than their communication in the afterlife, which pretty much sums up the movie. (PG-13) 126 min.