For the first time, Clint Eastwood ventures into the supernatural with the story of three people and their individual experiences with death. It’s also a departure for screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Damned United). The most skeptical, nonspiritual viewer (me) finds this to be a compelling film.
The question of What Comes Next is unanswered, and less interesting than the film’s observations of what happens on this Earth to living humans. Eastwood’s genius is in delivering moments of complete truthfulness, one after the other, across a wide range of settings. Young boys enabling a druggie mother. People in a hostel watching for the last breath of a loved one. Experienced, skilled and loving foster parents facing a challenge that they cannot fathom. Every instance of human behavior is completely authentic.
Equally realistic is the big CGI-enhanced action sequence at the beginning of the film – an Indonesian tsunami, not overblown in any way, but frightening in its verisimilitude.
Eastwood is an actor’s director, and star Matt Damon leads a set of excellent performances. Bryce Dallas Howard has an Oscar-worthy performance of a woman achingly eager to move past the painful episodes of her life. The child actor Frankie McLaren carries significant stretches of the story with his unexpressed longing and childish relentlessness. Cecile de France ably plays a successful television anchor compelled by events to veer her life in a different direction. Richard Kind delivers a moving portrayal of a man seeking closure after the death of his wife.