Afterlife (2010)

Afterlife (2010) is an American supernatural thriller starring Liam Neeson (The A-Team, The Next Three Days), Christina Ricci (Speed Race, Black Snake Moan), and Justin Long (Going The Distance, Old Dogs) and is writer-direct Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s directorial debut from her original screenplay.  The concept is intriguing, a funeral director with the gift of transitioning the dead to the “afterlife” but it quickly loses steam as everyone, including the cast, takes itself far too seriously and for far too long.  The clumsy narrative takes shape through a series of deaths, preparations of the various bodies, and quick scenes showing relatives during visiting hours but the truth of the matter is it is too little too late and rarely as much of a thriller as a thrill-less ride down a dark, uninteresting road – destination unknown.

The impetus for the narrative is of course a car accident –what better way to deliver the living (Anna) to the middle-ground, otherwise known in some circles as limbo – and quickly becomes a guessing game whether the funeral director, Eliot Deacon (Neeson) is what he seems and whether Anna (Ricci) is dead or just doesn’t want to be.  Add in an estranged would-be fiancé (Long) who bumbles around hapless for most of the movie until finally he discovers what he needs to unravel a series of mysterious and properly handled deaths in a small town that lead him to believe Deacon isn’t what he seems to be.  One can’t help but wonder why no one else seemed the least bit concerned that people were dying like routine and always seemed to look just right with their favorite flower arrangement.

The problem with After.Life is just about everything, to be honest.  Neeson hasn’t offered much since Michael Collins (1996) and dare I go back to Schindler’s List (1993) to really find him at his career best.  Here he’s weathered and unbendable, expressionless in bad lighting and when he does deliver it’s not the least bit menacing or eerie.  It’s as if the director wasn’t sure what she wanted and Neeson wasn’t interested in offering any suggestions.  Christina Ricci looks good for a corpse, though personally her early films The Ice Storm and The Adams Family top just about everything she’s done since turning to the Hollywood svelte look.  Her work here isn’t any more memorable than her role in Craig Brewer’s disappointing Black Snake Moan, perhaps even less dressed but she moves around the hapless script as though searching for more than whether or not she is really dead and more like direction that never arrives.  Justin Long reminds one of a slightly less befuddled David Schwimmer (Friends) but his clueless refusal to ‘let go’ of his dead fiancé is clumsy and distracting and while he serves as to resolve the gimmicky ending, it’s ultimately unsatisfying.

The idea of After.Life sounds interesting on paper – a modern-day Charon from Greek mythology in the form of a funeral director instead of a boatman carrying souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx with a big fat syringe filled with, stuff.  There is little clever and hardly anything remotely close to psychological or thrilling about this film which is unfortunate, since that is what it purports to be.  The trailer is interesting, almost inviting, but sadly this story would have been better executed as a short, if at all or further character development might have given us more to attach ourselves to outside the question of what really does happen when we die?  Hopefully, if we’re lucky, it doesn’t involve a decrepit old guy who doesn’t bend at the waist well and pats our shoulder while jabbing a syringe into our neck and sending us on our way.

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About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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5 Responses to Afterlife (2010)

  1. Rodney says:

    I had an inkling this film was a little short on good enough reasons to see it: but I had to know if Liam was any good. Looks like he wasn’t, although i disagree with you that he hasn’t done anything good since Schindler’s or Michael Collins – Taken in particular is an awesome film, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it with the highest possible recommendation I can recommend.
    Look like I’ll wait for this to come to TV at some point.

    • rorydean says:

      I totally forgot about Taken. I had much reservation about it because the premise seemed just so, light but it was better than I thought and you’re right, Neesom was pretty convincing as a ‘father interrupted’ with a past. I especially liked when he talked to the kidnappers and explained how much of a mistake they had made. No doubt! Reminds me of Harry Brown (Michael Caine is incredible) and of course one couldn’t begin to think of the elder statesman bad-ass without mentioning The Limey (Terrence Stamp). Thanks for reminding me about Taken.

      • Rodney says:

        Harry Brown is on the list of films I have ready to watch (among many, many others) when I can find the time – you’re spot on with Stamp in The Limey. Awesome.

  2. haskellch says:

    I absolutely adored After.Life. The acting is not the centerpiece of the film, but the scene design and the story are enough to keep me riveted. The film has its low moments, but I honestly believe this is a film worth seeing.

    • rorydean says:

      Hey Kaskellch…thanks for dropping by! I’m glad you found something redeeming about the movie and agree the cinematography, set design, and the originality of the story were the high marks of the production but I simply could not get past the stiff, emotionless and often derivative performances by two actors who have at least proven themselves in previous projects. This is where a lot of blame can be put on the director as it is he/she’s responsibility to ensure that all the puzzle pieces in a film come together in the final edit. I also think this is a good example of “concept over content” whereby the idea is inventive and engaging, the question of a modern day Boatman of the river Styx in the form of a mortician but after that, then what? Thanks again, I always enjoying debating and exchanging thoughts with people who don’t always agree with me. Cheers->

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