Thursday, October 28, 2010
Nobody likes to think about it, but most of us will eventually end up on a mortician’s slab, with a stranger submitting our body to various indignities. It is a hallmark of modernity that we have insulated ourselves from the business of death and the disposal of human remains. The unsettling thriller After.Life forces viewers to confront these things, and it may not be for everyone.
Anna (Christina Ricci) and Paul (Justin Long) are dating when a misunderstanding at a restaurant causes Anna to storm out and drive off in a heavy rainstorm. The next thing she knows, she’s awake on a metal table, and Eliot (Liam Neeson) is cleaning a wound on her face. In response to her questions, Eliot tells her she is dead and he is readying her body for a funeral in three days. Apparently, Eliot has a gift which allows him to see and communicate with the recently dead, which he uses to prepare them to transition to the finality of death. Anna has difficulty in believing this, but Paul and her mother are preparing for the funeral, there is a death certificate, and all signs point to her demise.
Paul is suspicious and tries to investigate, but is blocked by Eliot and Anna’s shrewish mother. Anna struggles against Eliot, but more and more of the signs point toward accepting her fate. The movie hinges on discovering what Eliot is really up to. Is he what he says, or simply the world’s cleverest serial killer? Not until the end of the movie do you truly know the answer to that.
The cast is very good. Justin Long is good as the guilt-ridden boyfriend, and Liam Neeson is always outstanding. This is Christina Ricci’s movie, though, and she shines at Anna. It is an uncommonly brave role, unglamorous, with Ricci nude for most of the last half of the movie. If genre films got award recognition, she might be a contender.
After.Life won’t be for everyone. It eschews gore for a truly uncomfortable look at death and dying. If you’re up for it, I’d say give it a try.