Hereafter (2011)


Rated M

Starring Matt Damon

Directed by Clint Eastwood

What happens after you die? It’s a question that cuts to the heart of our existence. Is this life all there is or is there a life after this one? For those who have lost a loved one, this is more than casual speculation. This is need to know information. Where are they? Are they okay? Can I speak to them one more time?

Hereafter is a movie that deals with the question of life after death. Through the stories of three different people from different parts of the world, director Clint Eastwood challenges our ideas about the afterlife and why it scares us so much.

Matt Damon plays George, a man who can get in contact with ghosts. He hides his ability, considering it a curse, afraid that people will think he’s a freak. Marie is a TV journalist who has a near death experience when she narrowly avoids drowning during a tsunami in Asia. She’s shaken by what she saw while dying and is finding it difficult to readjust to normal life. And there’s Marcus, a boy struggling to cope after the death of his twin brother, Jason. Each story approaches the question of life after death in a different way.

Hereafter manages to be a thoughtful, introspective movie without being drawn out and dull. While it’s clear that a large chunk of the budget was spent on the tsunami scene at the beginning of the film, the rest of the movie doesn’t call for that kind of money. And the tsunami scene? Brilliant. I’ve always struggled to wrap my head around what it would be like to witness a tsunami. Hereafter captures the power and destruction of a tsunami as well as the helplessness of those in its path.

If you are looking for a movie to see with your non Christian friends that will provide opportunities for discussion after, you couldn’t do much better than Hereafter. The movie asks many questions but answers few. Hereafter addresses the issues but wisely doesn’t attempt to give glib, meaningless answers. Ultimately, the characters have no special insight or wisdom – they’re just as much in the dark as we are. Walking out of the cinema, you’d find it difficult not to discuss these issues. And as a Christian, you have a great opportunity to turn the discussion towards Jesus.

The problem I have with movies that involve ghosts and the like is that it all ends up quite selfish. It’s all about us. We want to contact the dead for our sake, not theirs. The focus is all about our ability to cope in life without our loved ones, our need for closure, our need to speak to them one more time in order to survive this life. The living world is presented as the main game and the afterlife as some kind of dead-end nowheresville (excuse the pun). This is not the perspective the Bible takes.

The next life is the goal, not the consolation prize. This world is full of hurt, pain and suffering. The new creation that God has planned is far superior. I know when I’m in heaven, I won’t be moping around wishing I was back on the old earth. I’ll be celebrating that I’m in the new creation, hanging out with God.

For many people, the big issue about the afterlife is certainty. How can you be sure where you’ll end up? As Christians, we know that it’s not about being good or bad. If it was, we’d all be in trouble because we’ve all failed to get onto God’s “good enough” list. But by believing in God’s son Jesus, by believing that through his death and resurrection we have been saved, we know where we’ll end up. “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)We have certainty that we’ll end up in heaven.

Make watching Hereafter a priority. But don’t watch it alone. Watch it with non Christian friends. Use the opportunity to introduce your friends to Jesus and the certainty he brings.

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