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Updated: Aug 23, 2023

One of Director Clint Eastwood's best and most underrated films, HEREAFTER is a beautiful, heartfelt look at the impact of death and loss on three well drawn and diverse people around the globe.

The first is French TV reporter Marie LeLay, played with true screen presence by Cecile de France. As the film opens, Marie is on holiday with her boyfriend/boss Didier played by Thierry Neuvic, who's terrific in a complex role that could have easily been one note.

When Marie leaves him in the hotel room on an errand, a massive tsunami buries the town with incredible, destructive speed. It's the most complicated and mass-scale action sequence that Eastwood's ever staged and it punches you in the gut again and again.

Marie is swept away and killed by debris, but bystanders pull her from the water and bring her back to life.

In America, formerly famous psychic George Lonegan (Matt Damon) has hidden from his notoriety as someone who speaks to the dead. He's taken on a blue collar job and lives quietly. His brother Billy (Jay Mohr from "Jerry Maguire") is constantly pushing him to get online and make money from his "gift" but George pushes back, saying that the readings are too draining and offer him no personal life.

Beautifully written by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) we're cleverly informed that George's gift is real, and so is his desire to escape it at all costs.

Bryce Dallas Howard is good in an early role as Melanie, who George meets at a cooking class. Watching their relationship validates everything for us that George observes about his life via Morgan's perfectly written dialogue.

Meanwhile in London, twin school boys Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) live in a tiny flat, trying to cover for their drug addicted Mum every time child protective services shows up. It's heartbreaking watching them cover for the only parent in their life. When a sudden death strikes the boys, it turns an already fragile existence upside down.

Eastwood and Morgan create a beautiful meditation on death, grief, survivor's guilt and the impact of our loved ones after they're gone. It's deliberate but never boring and creates real anticipation as you watch these lives unfold, wondering if and how they are ever going to intersect.

Clint even composed the quiet music score that weaves gently throughout the film, saving it's best & biggest moments for the final moments of the story.

I was blown away by both de France and Damon. They're on opposite sides of desire in learning about the Hereafter. de France's Marie has seen it and is fascinated, trying to understand her knowledge of it in balance with her current life.

Damon's George can't touch anyone or he immediately sees and hears the dead loved one's communication tied to that person. Eastwood stages their visions in boldly different ways to our ears. Marie's time in the hereafter is serene, peaceful, haunted by gentle sounds. George's arrive with a thud that you feel in your chest every time he connects. It's jarring, disturbing.

Damon doesn't have a false gesture or word as George in those readings. He could have been hokey or silly, but he comes across as a sincere man wanting to do the right thing, but torn apart at the seams by the cost of doing so.

Eastwood was 80 years old in 2010 when he made this film. Surely his own mortality was on his mind in creating this intelligent meditation on the end of life.

Moving, heart breaking and at times soaring, HEREAFTER is a brilliant film and one of my favorites of the last 20 years. It's not an action thriller. But like George Lonegan, it you provide it patience and understanding, there are true gifts within.

HEREAFTER gets an A+.

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