Hereafter versus The Rite

Watched a couple of films this week; Hereafter and The Rite. Hereafter is the Clint Eastwood directed drama which, as I was watching it, I found myself impressed by. It is directed in such an unfussy, assured way which focusses completely on the characters. I love character-driven films and so this one really drew me in. Even the astonishing tsunami scene is done in a way which is never cheap or gratuitous; it’s just one part of the story of one character.

The three-way plot is woven together pretty well and even the depiction of England I didn’t find too stereotyped as we might have expected from Clint (for once everyone is not shown living in castles and employing butlers al la Four Weddings and a Funeral). Matt Damon and all of the cast is good so it should all come together to make a great film. But it does’t. It’s OK; engaging, well done and thoughtful but I came away feeling like there wasn’t much in the way of depth. In the end it’s just a love story; nothing wrong with love stories but this is quite a weak love story and it feels disappointing because, from the way the film starts, I thought we were going to get some kind of insight into the possibilities of an afterlife and how these possibilities affect the way we lead our lives. I mean it is called Hereafter after all!!!

Oddly, The Rite finished up having the most to say on spiritual matters! The plot concerns a young priest, doubting his faith, taking up exorcist duties under the guidance of grizzled old veteran Hopkins. Nothing about this film could be called subtle. The characters are overblown and melodramatic. Anthony Hopkins gives his usual superb performance but no-one else is particularly memorable. But at least the film says something; that faith often comes from sheer practical necessity, that you can’t believe in the devil without believing in God.

The exorcism scenes are effective without being too stomach-churning and the whole thing feels like a well worn but reliable pair of pants. There’s no surprises but the story is so well crafted that you just can’t help but enjoy it. I actually enjoyed both these films but I don’t think either of them would test anyone’s thinking muscle for too long.

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