The Feel-Good Heaven of Clint Eastwood

A good friend of mine recently told me that he had seen the new Clint Eastwood movie "Hereafter," which focuses on questions of the afterlife.  I asked my friend, a spiritual director, what he thought of the film's portrayal of heaven, and he just shrugged his shoulders.  "Well," he said, "there's no God, for one thing."  That squishy theology is addressed in John McCarthy's fine review of Eastwood's new movie, which stars Matt Damon.

Theologically, “Hereafter” is unhelpful no matter what one’s beliefs may be. Straddling the fence between belief and non-belief, it does not say anything substantive about mortality. God, or any similar entity or force, is never mentioned. What can be gleaned is that, contrary to the opinion expressed by Marie’s boyfriend, the lights do not simply go out when we die—we are not immediately ushered into the eternal void. Some people, apparently, endure in a form that can communicate with the George Lonegan’s of this world. Further, the departed can intervene in the world in small ways. 

Presenting the afterlife as a simple ghost story doesn’t give believers or doubters much intellectual sustenance. In general “Hereafter” studiously avoids anything that might be remotely inflammatory to either side. At one point a physician whom Marie interviews at an Alpine hospice argues that experiences that could foreshadow an afterlife should not be summarily discounted by a rationalist society. Evidence, or at least data, exists and ought to be treated in a scientific manner and accorded its due. Unfortunately, the theological relevance of such near-death experiences is never addressed.  


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7 years 5 months ago
Clint Eastwood peaked in the spaghetti westerns, haha. Have you watched, "Edith Stein - The Seventh Chamber" - available from Ignatius Press starring Maia Morgenstern? Available from Ignatius Press. G_d is the center of this movie!
Marie Rehbein
7 years 5 months ago
Well, for me the following stands out for me in McCarthy's review:

"Sincere and competently made, “Hereafter” holds your attention as it weaves together Marie’s existential hangover, Marcus’ loss and George’s mid-life malaise. The digital graphics used to render the tsunami are effective; and the special effects depicting glimpses of the beyond are restrained and plausible, if overly familiar. The acting is solid. Damon’s Everyman performance fits the matter-of-fact tone the movie takes toward his character’s genuine mediating powers. In their screen debuts, the McLaren twins help limit the story’s potential bathos, while Ms. De Frances’ physical beauty accentuates the ethereal quality of Marie’s otherworldly detour."

That's enough to make me want to see it.  

It does not really matter that Clint Eastwood does not present a Catholic theological viewpoint of the afterlife.  I suspect that the script is grounded in the experiences of average people, who despite not entirely believing in ghosts and such, find themselves unable to account for some of what they notice.  Given that, the ball goes back into the atheists' court to disprove that this is evidence of God.  To that extent, it should not be dismissed even from a Catholic viewpoint.


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