Hereafter is a curious movie. It has strong performances and scenes and characters with a quiet power that stay with you even after the film is over.
It is constructed with an unfussy elegance and minimal melodrama by Clint Eastwood. And yet, the film, which grapples with questions of death and what comes after, never meshes into a soaring whole.
The film begins brilliantly with the tsunami in Asia but slackens as it moves and stumbles with a climax that seems contrived and patched on from some other film.
Writer Peter Morgan, best known for tight, brilliant scripts like The Queen and Frost/Nixon gives us three disconnected stories that occur simultaneously in San Francisco, Paris and London. The only thing that binds them is death.
In San Francisco, George, played by Matt Damon, is a blue-collar worker running away from his ability to connect with the dead. He once worked as a psychic but quickly realized, as he says, that a life that's all about death is no life at all.
In Paris, Cecile de France plays Marie Lelay, a famous television journalist who has a near-death experience in the 2004 tsunami.
And in London, a desperately lonely, young boy seeks to communicate with his dead twin brother.
Eastwood tells their stories with tenderness and compassion. The best directors have been overcome by the cheesiness of converting the hereafter into celluloid - you recall Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones - but Eastwood's spare story-telling style has no place for the maudlin.
The sense of ache and loss is palpable. And yet, as the stories unfolded, I found myself getting restless. In its latter part especially, Hereafter hits more than a few false notes.
The way the three strands eventually connect, as they must, isn't entirely convincing. Instead of gathering force, the film dissipates as it concludes. For me, Hereafter didn't quite stack up but still there is much to admire here. Not the least, Clint Eastwood himself, who at 80 continues to defy limits.