Movie Review: After.Life Keeps You Guessing Even After Movie Is Over

5 Aug
2010

After.Life (directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo) opens with Anna (Christina Ricci) and her boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) trying to get their groove on in bed, but Anna is not having it. She is distant. It is obvious this girl is unhappy and doesn’t want to talk about it.

At the school where she teaches some older kids are bullying her student Jack and Anna steps in to protect him. A box of baby chicks are on a table in  the classroom and Jack peeks inside and tells Annie “That one is dead” about one chick in particular. The chick is far from dead and Anna replies, “No, it’s not, it’s just afraid”. Nice slice of foreshadowing to say the least.

There is something obvious underlying problem with Annie, which is made apparent by her constant pill-popping habit, her solemn state around Paul and comments Paul has made about her mother. At dinner where Paul was planning on proposing to Anna, she misunderstands him when he breaks some news to her and an explosive argument ensues. Anna leaves the restaurant in a hurry and gets into a car accident and dies. Tragic!

Post mortem she is in the process of being prepped by the funeral director, Eliot Deacon (played by Liam Neeson) when she wakes up and Eliot informs her she is dead. But how is she speaking to him if she is?

After.Life seems like a long drawn out Twilight Zone episode about the transition of our soul after death, our regrets, and how we viewed our life.  Notice the operative word is ‘seems’. We see Anna is trapped in this transition and the funeral director is the only person who can hear her and see her (awake). He has a gift. Along with this gift is a strange habit of collecting photographs of the dead people he preps and muttering to the dead (that we can’t see). He might just has a weird fetish, however he is very outspoken about how he hates that every one of his corpses complain to him. Something doesn’t jive.

Paul is in full denial about Anna’s death and makes it known to all of those around him, including his policeman friend when he tells him that Anna is not dead.

Add the little boy Jack who seems to also have a gift for seeing the dead and we have a classic case of The Sixth Sense. After constantly guessing for the first half of the film this is the conclusion I came up with, but it was changed yet again.

The film manipulates us back on forth, making us constantly second guessing our deciding answer to the burning question “Is Anna really dead?”

After.Life has its flaws. It’s seems drawn out, pounding into our head the same spiritual message throughout the entire film; enjoy your life to the fullest. It becomes monotonous and almost cliché.

If you enjoy a naked Christina Ricci your in luck, she’s constantly naked during the latter half of the film, but I think it takes away from the film and adds a exploitative factor that isn’t necessary to the storytelling. She’s in a funeral home basement; cover her with a sheet for crying out loud.

It’s saving grace is the last fifteen minutes. We think we finally have all the answers and Bam! we are still left wondering up until the closing credits and it let’s you do the interpreting.

The film it turns out is far from cliché and worth an hour and a half of your time.

Rated: R

Running Time: 104 minutes

Rating: 7.5 /10

After.Life Trivia: The movie was filmed entirely in New York (Brooklyn, Douglaston (Queens), Emerson Middle School in the Bronx, Great Neck and Mill Neck Manor (Long Island) in only 25 days.

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Review originally written for Open Book Society.

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