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I have to confess that between my kids and my marriage, losing my father 9 years ago, and simply growing in my understanding of the gospel, I have become quite a softy. I feel like I come to tears nearly every day now, which, as an ISTJ who grew up being taught to never take anything personally, is just not like who I have been most of my life. I was moved to tears many times in Hereafter. Yes, it can be contrived and the film’s depiction of the hereafter is vague and unbiblical, but I got into it and I genuinely appreciated this movie. This is a film not truly about the hereafter but more about loss and loneliness and the question of whether the hereafter is a solution or not.

Loss

I thought Clint Eastwood did a great job with this movie in helping you feel a sense of the loss that comes with losing a loved one, that loss that accompanies death. Marcus and Jason’s story absolutely crushed me. This might have been helped by the fact that I have 2 sets of twins of my own, but I really felt the ache of Marcus and was gripped by every scene. The movie’s portrayal of the events of the tsunamis of 2004, and of deaths of individuals, all felt meaningful and weighty. There’s another event that happens later in the movie that I was struck by the weight of even the ambiguous loss wrapped up in it. In our post 9-11 world, not many things shock us anymore. Earthquakes kills thousands in China and Haiti, floods kill many across America, soldiers die daily, and terrorists blow up busses. On top of those things, news outlets sensationalize the negative and we keep being more and more desensitized in the overload of bad news. But when a big event happens in the middle of the movie, it is not merely glossed over and I was surprised by how Eastwood even used it to give meaning to death and help you feel the loss in it by how people react and engage with that event.

Loneliness

As well as loss and the weight of death were portrayed, they were simply a means to get to another theme: loneliness and the sense of being alone. This is a pervading theme that I saw very early on. The 3 main characters are searching not merely for answers but for relationship. Marcus wants his brother back and feels lost without him, utterly isolated. George (Matt Damon) is completely isolated by his ability to speak for the dead. His gift isolates him from every relationship except for his brother, (excellently played by Jay Mohr) who truly is for him and loves George but still doesn’t get it. Marie has a near death experience in the tsunami tragedy and seemingly no one believes her or understands what she went through and she is subsequently ostracized. Ultimately, this movie is not a movie about the hereafter. The hereafter only acts as a means of drawing out the problem of loneliness. When death happens, we are crushed and hurt but we are lonely. In my experience with my dad and every experience thereafter, loneliness has been the overriding emotion associated with death. I want him back! I miss him dearly! Can’t I just have a few minutes with him? Why didn’t I appreciate him more! Hereafter even goes beyond that in demonstrating loneliness felt not merely from death but from life in general. Marie and George don’t even have relationships from which to even feel that deep loss from. They don’t have relationships where they can truly be themselves.

This sounds depressing, why see this movie?

We all feel the loneliness and loss that Hereafter displays at some point or another, many of us more than others. Deep down though, we all feel this loss and loneliness deeply. We long for intimacy. We desire friendships and relationship where we can be ourselves. But we’re disappointed time and time again. Friendships change. Our marriages struggle. People let us down. We let others down in spite of our best efforts. We lose friends and parents. Our wives get breast cancer. Relationships just seem to erode or get derailed by life. So is that just how life is and we just gut it out? We know it should be different. We long for more for a reason. What is our hope? Hereafter presents the afterlife as a sort of peaceful weightlessness and reunion with the only backing being that’s what people see in near-death experiences. Even if that was true, is it enough? I think it’s weak. I think there’s more.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3 ESV)

We don’t have to scrape and claw for answers in the vague near-death experiences, the God who is not silent has given us guidance in the Bible. What do we learn there? Religion is the solution, seriously? Nope. You learn that we were made for relationship with the triune God of the Universe. But we rejected Him. We fell into sin which broke that relationship. But God the Father send His precious, eternal Son to suffer and die to get us back. Now God has opened the door and is waiting with a lavish grace and mercy ready to take you as you are. He knows you better that you do and through Jesus He is for you. The good news of the Bible is not another 4 step method to happiness but restoration of relationships. First, God restores us to Himself. Through that restoration, our relationships with people can be redeemed. That is only way through the ache of loneliness and loss and despair that Hereafter beautifully presents to us.

Few delights can equal the mere presence of One whom we fully trust. – George MacDonald

Funny One-Minute Review of Hereafter from the Rabbit Room

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