Revisiting My Favourite Films of the Year, Part 3

It took me a couple of days to decide which of two movies was my third favourite cinematic gem of the year. Do I choose the gutwrenching film about an adventurer who finds the need to lean on the people in his life through five days of torturous solitude or a movie about another man trapped within himself, a part of a three-character interconnecting storyline that questions one’s belief and vision of the afterlife? Or of soulmates? Weighing these two options was tough, but eventually I made a decision based on the maturity, auteurism and sheer ‘experience’ of the film…

Hereafter

Alright, it’s no secret that I love Matt Damon. And I don’t love him JUST because he’s a pretty boy. I love him because he’s a brilliant actor – he can wear a lot of masks, he’s diverse, he has a great voice for screen and he’s solid and consistent. But Matt Damon isn’t even the best part of this movie. It’s more than a character sketch about a psychic. And it’s more than a fantastical journey into a psychic’s headspace either. There is really nothing in this film that suggests a ‘third eye’ is a viable trait. There’s no reason in this movie to convince us to believe in it for any discernable reason either. It’s a film about three people who have in a sense, experienced, or been close to, death. And they’re all looking for answers by peering into the unknown in hopes of finding peace within themselves through what is vageuly known as “the afterlife”.

Clint Eastwood’s movies move like old ghosts through a crowded room; slowly and gracefully yet almost entrancing. There is a slow and careful pace to this movie but it never feels dull or ‘dead’ or aged. Instead we get an incredibly chemistry-infused scene involving a blindfolded taste test at an Italian cooking class (featuring the best-cast scene-stealing cooking instructor in cinematic history), a lot of simpering humour loaded with darkness and pathos, a lot of valuable silences, and some great juxtapositions between reality and this indescribable world of the fantastical. It’s all incredibly odd material and in the wrong hands could have ended up a total mess. And yet, it is in the hands of Clint Eastwood, who has yet to strike out, who knows all aspects of cinema and uses that experience to his advantage and the viewer’s.

This is a great film; it is heartbreaking, terrifying and through expository emotions alone, doesn’t ask the audience to accept any sorts of ambiguous truths about the hereafter but rather, places the characters’ hearts in their hands and asks simply of them, whether they believe or not, to handle with care.

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