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Death makes most people nervous – especially film reviewers. It’s a brave or foolhardy director who decides to make a film not just about death, but that explores the possibilities of what may happen after death. Films like A Matter of Life and Death, Heaven Can Wait, What Dreams May Come or Lovely Bones can divide opinions enormously, and don’t usually attract large audiences.
Clint Eastwood has here strayed far from his comfort zone in making what is obviously a very personal film.
The critics generally didn’t like it. It was written by the excellent Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen and Frost/Nixon, among others, and interleaves three separate stories.
Cécile de France, a French telejournalist who undergoes a horrific experience and finds herself changed by it. Matt Damon plays a San Francisco man who considers himself cursed by mediumship, and a young London schoolboy sets out to contact someone close to him who has died.
The film opens with an astonishing cinematic tour de force and then settles down to follow the three central characters in a quiet and engaging way. I found I cared very much about all three, and the stories never obviously went where I expected them to.
There were some genuinely affecting scenes, and a very satisfying conclusion. Cécile de France is always good, and Matt Damon unfussily plays a very ordinary man with a single extraordinary skill, which makes his life miserable.
I have only two niggles. Clint sadly uses stock footage in a terribly old-fashioned way to signpost geographical locations, like Tower Bridge and the Eiffel Tower, and I didn’t feel that the soundtrack, written by the director, was always as effective and supportive as it should be.
But otherwise I really liked it right from the gasp-inducing opening scene to the end, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I watched it, which is one of my personal indications of a good film. I shall definitely watch it again.