Thursday, September 23, 2010

After.Life - Denying Death in Transition

I had goose bumps all throughout “After.Life”.

The movie is a modern noir that follows the life of a funeral director (Liam Neeson) who possesses a special gift that allows him to see and hear people transitioning between life and death. We also follow Anna (Christina Ricci), an unhappy woman who, on the night her boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) was going to propose to her, picks a fight with him – and then tragically figures in an accident. The next scenes involve Anna waking up from her gurney, ready to be embalmed, but refusing to believe that she’s dead. How else was she able to talk to Eliot Deacon, the funeral director, if she were otherwise? In the next 3 days, it is Mr. Deacon’s task to convince Anna that she indeed has died, to “prepare her” to cross to the other side.

Meanwhile, in the midst of Anna’s ambivalence, she sends signals to her bereaved boyfriend. I found myself all creeped out! Director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo’s debut movie is a weird, albeit enthralling piece that’s not for everyone. Child actor Chandler Canterbury helped in laying on the willies, as his character Jack keeps reminding Paul that he “saw her standing by the window”. And was the child’s mother dead too? The film will keep you guessing! Production design is top notch, with an interplay of colors, set pieces and location that contributes to a general unsettling atmosphere.

Ricci's nude shots are aplenty, but they are elegantly framed and executed, sensuous to some degree, but never gratuitous.

There were questions that begged answers: When Anna looked at her reflection, we would find her fogging the mirror, which would mean, she is breathing. Is she? Is she alive? Did she have a chance of coming back to life had Eliot allow her to? And why was the funeral director (Neeson) so reluctant on letting her go if it was indeed his intention to help?

Ricci gives perfect pathos to a difficult role, and we have to salute her for a brave performance that required her to be naked during most of her “dead” scenes. That must have been difficult. But with a body as flawlessly beautiful like she has, why wouldn’t she?

Fogging the mirror.

Modern noir from a debuting director.


Anonymous said...

To be honest, it is more enticing to reply here than to your previous post with indie boys posing with their innocent and lambasted countenance. Hehe..
The memories of naked Ricci beckon everytime I read your words.

The problem with me now is because I've seen the film after seeing Chloe (with Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried) and I am trying to recall scenes as if I'm doing a "spot the difference" thing. (it’s just me.)

At first, I thought it was another predictable movie with Neeson but I ended up guessing and guessing and guessing. Yeah. Til the end.

Would you mind explaining the mirror scene?

Cathy P. said...

Loko! ;-> But you see, all those photos are pre-determined. It was actually my friend Kyle who suggested that since my posts are verbose, no one would read them if there's no visual help. Thus, those photos.

"Chloe" was spectacular - and Atom Egoyan is one of my all-time favorite directors. In fact, I have a compilation of his films - the ones that I could get my hands on.

We share the same first impressions with "After.Life", but I "soldiered on" because of Ricci, and it was actually a compelling watch.

Unfortunately, I can offer no explanation to the fogging of the mirror. It just doesn't make sense! A dead person cannot breathe, that's pretty basic. I think it was played out for its effect, more than any logical string within the narrative. The questions I wrote on the blog were just rhetorics.

As far as I am concerned, even souls "in transition" (the one they used to refer as "in limbo" - until the Catholic faith denied its presence) do not breathe anymore. And if ghosts were real, they won't be able to breathe either. you have an explanation?

Anonymous said...

Just to connect, the name “Kyle” is special to me..It’s my loving girlfriend’s name.
We share the same first impressions with "After.Life", but I "soldiered on" because of Ricci ( you know why), because of her good acting beyond ‘nakedness”, and Neeson, because I know that he has real acting prowess beyond “Taken” and some other B-movies he has made.
I am a born again Christian and I never believed the concept of purgatorio. Perhaps, The Roman Catholic high priests just made it up as a lame excuse for their sins – asking their living loved ones to pray for them ‘til they reach heaven. They treat prayers like “MRT-push ticket” to a certain station they call heaven.
*Another spot the difference for me is “Yellow handkerchief” (Maria Belo, Wiilaim Hurt,Eddie Redmayne, Kristen Stewart by Arthur Cohn) vs Letters to Juliet (Amanda Seyfried by Gary Winick).

Cathy P. said...

A gf named "Kyle"? That's unique, and I think it's sweet that you mention her "lovingly" as some people would rather keep their gfs secret to strangers.

Kyle is a dear friend, and he is gay. Whenever I am out, I have him and another childhood-friend Iya with me, since we have a strong history together.

I am Catholic and I see no conflict among religions. But it was a bit of a shock (at that time) to actually be told that "there is no limbo" - no purgatory. I grew up all through my formative years in very Catholic schools, but that never stopped me from gaining a more open outlook on stuff outside my home.

I have "Yellow Handkerchief" somewhere in my room, but I haven't seen it. I'd better start overhauling my room - now! - if I were to watch it. ;->

Anonymous said...

Put "Yellow handkerchief" on your predictable list. "Pangkilig", pero pwede na. Ayokong agawin ang "critic's space" sa blog mo kaya hindi na lang ako magsasalita..(pano ba mag-smileys?"hehehe

Katrina ang tunay niyang pangalan, at mahal na mahal ko siya, walang dahilan para itago ko siya sa kahit anong pader na pwedeng gawin ng lipunan- sabi ko nga sa kaniya, mahal ko siya higit pa sa ideolohiya at pangarap ko -- at higit pa sa pagsusulat ko.

anyway.. bakit nga ba Cathy P.? swimmer ka ba?hehe

Cathy P. said...

... because I am Catherine Pena. Doesn't that show in my email address that's logged in at your blog?

I am uneasy about being referred to as a critic. I write the way I see films - in relation to how I feel about them at the time I was watching, and i do feel passionately about movies and anything visual. I do not mince words. "Acid tongue," is how Iyaya describes my posts kasi I don't have to compromise, nor be nice to big names like some newspaper/tabloid writers or critics, who toe the line.

It's my personal blog. Pakialam ko ba kung magagalit ang mga Sarah Geronimo fans if I consider "Hating Kapatid" shameless eh tinadtad nila ng commercials - which is just stupid, abusive and shameless, and it is my money I paid to watch for that darn movie. That's also the reason why Tagalog films are in-depth, while U.S. films are way shorter, coz I have been accused to not taking Tagalog movies seriously, thus the lengthy reviews and explanations. How can I not be serious when I watch every darn Tagalog garbage? Money I could save up to buy more shoes (my vice).

I didn't get your reference to swimming. Cathy swims? I do too, but not professionally. ;->

Anonymous said...

tama ka.. kaya nga yung book review blog ko, naka drafts pa lahat.. ayokong tawaging critic, nakaka-kati pakinggan. E ang ginagawa ko lang naman e nagbibigay ng damdamin sa nabasa kong libro. dahil inggles at hindi talaga ako ang tipong nag"pproof read" , saka ko na ilalabas.

kaya nga natuwa ako sa blog mo, e. may tapang, may kiliti -- totoo.

akala ko kasi swimmer ka.. may slideshow kasi na parang "still photo ng Amerikanang swimmer" sa gilid ng blog mo.. baka kako gusto mong ikubli ang mukha mo.. "alam mo na, parang pen name..hehe"

kalayaan mong pugutan ng ulo ang kahit sino sa sarili mong lugar, basta 'wag lang gamitin ang kalayaan para ipanakip sa kasalanan.

Cathy P. said...

Ah, so that's it! Nah, they (swimmers' photos) are there just to spruce up this otherwise dour blog space; to make it more visual and animated.

I have no intentions of doing anonymous blogs kasi writing with no names don't deserve to be read or heard. Di nga mapangatawanan ng nagsulat, ako pa ang mag-va-validate sa kanya? Masaya! Let him/her grow "balls" first, then I may reconsider to acknowledge his existence.

My name is authentic and isn't a pen name, but I can't place my photo. It will call attention to myself and I'd rather not be popular to people I don't know. Baka kasi while walking at the mall, shopping, someone would recognize me - the 1 million and 2 fans of Sarah Geronimo - and pull my hair! It's not that I'm afraid for myself. I am afraid of what I am capable of doing to them. LOL. These darn fans are just plain idiots who run on empty skulls. Subservient idiots. I actually like the girl. She's one of the decent people in the industry, but it's what she allowed to do that annoyed me.

If there is one thing I am sure, it is that I speak my thoughts. They don't like what I write here, it is easy! They can swirl down the septic drain - and never return! :->

TommyS said...

Hi guys, Sorry to butt in, but just wanted to say what a terrific movie After.Life is. Saw it last week and I gotta say it's prob the best film so far this year!Weird but wonderful!

Cathy P. said...

Hi TommyS,

Completely agree with you. It's even weird to say this, but it was like a breath of fresh air, a really different noirish film far removed from the usual movies shown at the cinema.

For a change, a movie distributor suddenly got taste! LOL