More noise than signal


I’m barely back from China and I find myself faced with another unlikely-to-be-enjoyable business trip out to India. Good job I don’t have a social life or any commitments outside of work. Oh, wait, no. The other option. Let’s just say I’m less than thrilled about the prospect that awaits me, aside from having a nice long flight during which I can revise my C.V.

A small amount of this month’s irritatingly slender free time was spent watching Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial offering, Hereafter. I knew going in that this was a bit of a gamble. The cinema website did, after all, describe it as a ‘supernatural thriller’, which is a sub-genre that in my experience is pretty much a synonym for ‘pish’. On the other hand, Eastwood’s been on a roll of late, delivering a series of worthy, enjoyable, more often than not brilliant movies for the last decade. If anyone could pull it off, surely it’s ol’ Dirty Harry, especially with the typically dependable Matt Damon returning from Invictus.

I guess both of their script quality radars have picked up the same tracking errors that has so afflicted Angelina Jolie’s of late, as Hereafter proves to be an only very barely tolerable snoreathon that, in a world of pure justice and truth, would replace the end credits with a polite apology and an offer of a full refund.

Damon plays George Lonegan, a factory worker doing his best to ignore his ‘special gift’. He can see dead people. By which I do not mean that he is not robbed of his sight anytime he walks into a morgue. That is not a special gift. That is a mere biological function which most of us are already graced with. No, by this I mean he can see into the spirit world and hear what the deadites are saying unto people.


At any rate, while he had been using his gifts as a medium for a career, he found the stress of the gig unbearable and is in search of a normal life. Meanwhile, a French television star played by Cécile De France struggles to deal with her near-death experience after being caught in a freak tidal wave. Also meanwhile, a young London lad struggles to deal with the death of his identical twin. All have some interest in the afterlife. Will they all meet up by the end of the film in some sort of crazy coincidence, or fate, or whatever?

Well, duh. Quite what all of the above was supposed to say, or mean, or be, is entirely mystifying. None of the struggles any of the characters featured go through are relatable in any way, apart from I suppose a slender few tenths of percentage points of the world’s population that have had, or think they have had, some sort of near death experience. Perhaps I’m having a failure of empathy caused by near-exhaustion, but I just don’t think it’s possible to care about any of these characters, apart, maybe, from the young kid, but even that’s scuppered by the dreadful performance that Frankie and George McLaren inflict on us.

Still, the kids are in good company, with flat, lifeless performances given across the board. Almost nothing happens at all over the course of what IMDB informs me was 129 minutes, although I could have sworn it was closer to 129 hours.

This is a dull, tugid, boring movie in which nothing happens. Even if you have any sort of belief in any kind of afterlife beyond quiet decomposition, there’s not a damn thing that’s of any interest whatsoever for you in here, and you should avoid to the best of your abilities.

Of course, if you’re a “sceptic” or as I like to think of them “sane person”, there would seem to be some opportunity for watching the movie as an opportunity to rage against the screen, given the completely credulous way into which the existence of a spirit world is introduced, and a further chance to descend into apoplexy when Cécile De France starts bawling about all the “scientific evidence” she has got her mitts on, which is never documented so I must assume is “scientific” in the way that homeopathy is “scientific”, which is to say the opposite of “scientific”.

Even then, the combined tedium of the film means we can only sit in front of it in somnambulistic stupor until it has the good grace to come to a ending that answers none of the questions that it hints at. I suppose the intention was to prompt your own thought train on what goes on after you croak, but that’s not a ticket I care to buy.

I’ve only seen two films released this year, so saying that this is the least enjoyable of them is not currently a particularly damning phrase. However, I’m pretty confident I’ll be saying the same thing in June, at which point the judgement may have a little more bite to it.