Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 2010. Warner Bros., Malpaso Productions, Kennedy/Marshall Company, Amblin Entertainment, Dombey Street Productions. Screenplay by Peter Morgan. Cinematography by Tom Stern. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy, Robert Lorenz. Music by Clint Eastwood. Production Design by James J. Murakami. Costume Design by Deborah Hopper. Film Editing by Joel Cox, Gary Roach. Academy Awards 2010. National Board of Review Awards 2010. Toronto International Film Festival 2010.
Clint Eastwood usually presents a deft combination of soul-stirring fancy and hard-hitting realism: the missing child plot of Changeling or the melodramatic pathos of Million Dollar Baby are just two examples of films whose stories don’t take place in a world familiar to the majority of viewers and yet come off natural and believable. Here he pushes his luck in a film about characters in three different countries whose interest in the life that follows death eventually connects them to each other. In France, Cécile De France, who previously survived the 2004 tsunami, begins to see visions of an afterworld. In England, a young boy loses his identical twin brother to a tragic accident and is desperate to communicate with him, terrified of life without his beloved sibling. In America, a psychic (Matt Damon) with the ability to communicate with the deceased has turned his back on the moneymaking potentials of his gift because of how alienated he has become from people he wants to connect with. The stories build steadily and slowly without ever testing your patience, a virtue that Eastwood shows in many of his best films, but screenwriter Peter Morgan shockingly indulges in a few too many cloying scenes of contrived coincidences and badly ripe dialogue. France is particularly excellent and Frankie and George McLaren (sharing both roles) give the film all of its emotional depth with their earnest portrayal of a child terrified of the turn his life has taken him in, but despite the sympathy these actors engender they are let down by a dull and unmotivating performance from Damon. The eventual meeting of the three tales is underwhelming and the film’s conclusion fails to reward, while the issues the film raises about our need to continue to keep people in our lives even after they are gone are never developed let alone answered (even The Mothman Prophecies delved deeper into the subject). Bryce Dallas Howard has a wonderful supporting turn as a young woman who catches Damon’s eye and learns the hard way why it is good not to push too far.