Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood reunites with his Invictus star Matt Damon for a new drama that explores the ages-old mystery of what happens after death. Here's a look at Hereafter.
Marie is a French TV reporter who drowned in the 2004 tsunami, but was later revived and then is haunted by the puzzling images she recalls. While she tries to find answers as a journalist, an English youngster turns to the paranormal in search of a way to contact his dead twin brother.
The two quests lead them both to George Lonegan, a lonely San Francisco recluse who, it turns out, is really able to communicate with the recently departed ?albeit reluctantly.
Matt Damon stars as George, whose psychic abilities were awakened by his own near-death experience.
"My character, when you discover him, is a guy who actually does have this ability," explains Damon, "but doesn't want it because it is ruining any chance he has at having a normal life."
Damon admits to being a skeptic and did not seek out psychics to help him research the role; but he is intrigued by the idea of seeing and speaking with dead people.
"If someone could do what George did and connect you to somebody who passed on, I'd be very interested in it," admits Damon. "I think everyone, when you get to my age, has lost friends and family members ?so yes, I'd be open to that."
Director Clint Eastwood, now 80 years old, is twice Damon's age and his take on mortality and the afterlife comes from a different perspective. However he says the Hereafter script has room for many points of view.
"Most religions seem to ponder the afterlife, but I thought this was interesting because it wasn't really a religious project," explains Eastwood. "It had spirituality about it, but it was not necessarily tied in with any particular organized thought. Certainly I think everyone has thought about it at some point or another in time; and it's a fantasy that, if there is anything out there like that, it would be just terrific, but that remains to be seen."
Screenwriter Peter Morgan, whose films include the recent fact-based dramas The Queen, Frost/Nixon and The Last King of Scotland, recalls being ambivalent while writing how Hereafter portrays the hereafter.
"I don't want this film to become a film in which we have the answer and we've got a 'scoop' here, because that is not what the film is," notes Morgan. "The film is really a story of inquiry and curiosity and a feeling of incompleteness and of living with mystery. It's something that unites every one of us ?none of us know where we're going and we're going to do all of it alone. I thought it would be quite interesting just to provoke those questions, but without offering any answers because it is very private."
Director and producer Eastwood believes each person in the audience can come away from the film with his or her own interpretation.
"Yes, it raises a lot of questions, but that is where it ends," Eastwood says. "The questions are there. You pose the questions and then it is up to the audience to meet you halfway and think about it in terms of their own lives and what their thoughts are and what experiences they might have had. It would be interesting to see what answers are, but they are going to have to come up with those answers."
The international cast of Hereafter also features French screen star Ce?cile De France as tsunami survivor Marie. American actress Bryce Dallas Howard is a potential partner for George; and young British newcomers Frankie and George McLaren play the twin brothers reaching across the shadowy boundary between life and death. As he has done for most of his recent films, director Clint Eastwood also composed the musical soundtrack.