By Susan JAMES
If you’re looking for an upbeat way to spend a rainy afternoon, Clint Eastwood’s meandering meditation on the afterlife isn’t it. Punctuated by a handful of wrenchingly acted scenes, the script by Peter Morgan buries these in a slow paced porridge of existential proportions.
Matt Damon plays George Lonegan, a man tormented by psychic visions and burdened with a scumbag brother who wants to use those visions to make money. Think “I see dead people” all grown up. Working in a factory in San Francisco, George tries to ignore his abilities which he sees as a curse not a gift. He fills his lonely off hours taking a class in Italian cooking. There he meets Melanie, who has just moved to the city and wants to make friends. Too much time is spent on their lackluster mini-romance with little payoff for the main story. Melanie discovers George’s secret. Melanie departs.
Over on the other side of the world in Indonesia, top investigative French journalist Marie LeLay, played with an ethereal earthiness by Cecile De France, is caught in the devastating tsunami that roils the coast and for a few minutes she drowns. Saved by chance, Marie returns to Paris haunted by visions of the afterlife she saw while dead. Meanwhile in London, 10-year-old Marcus, son of a drug-addicted mother, has just witnessed the violent death of his twin brother, Jason, in a traffic accident. Placed in foster care, Marcus’ whole being is concentrated on somehow making contact with Jason.
The movie follows the separate journeys of George, Marie and Marcus as they work their way toward an inevitable meeting. George is laid off from his factory in San Francisco and to escape his brother’s schemes to exploit him, flies off to London to visit the hometown of his hero, author Charles Dickens. Marie leaves her anchor job on the French news desk and decides to write a book on her life and death experiences in Indonesia. Marcus steals money from his foster parents to make the rounds of London’s sleazy psychic parlors and in the process happens across a photograph of George on the internet with a description of his abilities. To say that they all eventually find not only each other but answers is not to say that the movie ever does.
Its difficulties lie in the one-dimensional characters and the unfocused plot. If the hereafter is a hazy vision of a crowd of blurry people then so too is the screenplay. It accepts without question that there is an afterlife and that George and Marie have seen it. A conspiracy of nefarious international entities to cover up scientific evidence proving its existence is neither credible nor convincing. But then neither are George and Marie. Thinly written and underdeveloped, the characters wander through their scenes like ciphers and their final meeting at the movie’s conclusion has no romantic resonance. Only
the lonely, grieving Marcus, played by twins Frankie and George McLaren, and his desperate, drug-addicted mother, played by Lyndsey Marshal, reach beyond philosophical meditation and drag emotionally anguished characters into the light of day.
See you at the movies!