This New Yorker review by one of my favorite critics, David Denby, seems to miss the point of Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter completely. Among other things (he basically trashes the film), he writes:
But the communications with the dead went by without raising a single goose bump on this suggestible viewer‚Äôs skin.
He says that it’s a bad thing. Erm, despite the posters and the ads for it, not once did I get the feeling Damon’s character was really communicating with the dead. He was communicating, in my opinion, with something inside another person that is trapped there; our own creation of ghosts. That’s my interpretation but the film backs up this notion. We are the ones who need to believe. I could see if you went into the film expecting it to really be about Damon seeing dead people. That might have been frustrating for me too. And I don’t mean to be condescending here (how laughable if I had been) but I’m surprised that certain critics see the film so literally, without thinking that it might not mean what they think it means.
He also brings up pseudo-science, something one should expect. Trust me, no one is more of a pro-science, anti-spirituality person than I am — well, there are a few, I’m sure — but in no instance in the film did I feel like that kind of stuff was being presented or shoved down my throat.¬† A literal take of the film might reveal that, sure. But I think Eastwood was trying to do something more thought-provoking than merely trying to foist gobbledegook down our throats.
Meanwhile, New York Cool’s Frank J. Avella had a different take:
Eastwood is a wonder in the director‚Äôs seat. He, thankfully, takes his time to set up what he wants to depict yet the film is never dull‚Äîit actually takes on a surprising urgency. It‚Äôs as if the pain, loss and confusion that is felt by the characters forces the viewer to wax on his/her mortality, asking the big questions: why are we here and what do we think happens when we die? Do those we have loved and lost watch over us or do we need to feel that in order to get over the pain of their passing and move on with our lives? Why do some of us feel out of synch with the rest of the world and it‚Äôs inhabitants?
Eastwood‚Äôs final shot offers some hope–not necessarily a hope that any tangible answers about the afterlife will be revealed to us–but a hope that those people who feel estranged from the here-and-now-world can find common ground with others who feel exactly the same way.