Director: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Writers: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo
Stars: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson and Justin Long
Dead or alive?(spoilers)
“You can laugh
A spineless laugh
We hope your rules and wisdom choke you
Now we are one in everlasting peace”
- Radiohead, “Exit Music (For a Film)
“After.Life” deals with a subject that is very popular and I'm sure all of you sometimes wondered about it. What happens after we die? Is there nothing or something,
basically unimaginable for human mind? Each religion has a view on afterlife, because it offers a promise – the ultimate promise of continuity. No, you won't cease to exist. There is something more. But the movie goes beyond that, maybe even not focuses on it, whilst touching the subject. Despite its title “After.Life” is more like one of the episodes of HBO hit and absolutely superb series “Six Feet Under” where the morticians were able to talk to the deceased.
The movie deals with a very original concept – it not so much focuses on afterlife itself, as many movies did, but on some sort of a limbo – after all it's not true afterlife yet, Anna has to accept her own death first. The story, despite many ambiguous scenes is very clever.
There are two options – either Deacon is saying the truth and he really has a gift and Anna is dead or he is some sort of psychopath, who tortures his victims, paralyzes them and then convinces them they are dead, after which he buries them alive.
What's fun is that there are evidence for each of those theories, but if you think about it hard and long enough you will see that the latter is basically the truth.
Take that scene – Anna's mother comes to funeral home to visit her dead daughter. Just before she enters Eliot injects Anna with something – now, it may be something to help her relax as he said or it may be a drug which will paralyze her and make her unable to speak.
The accident that led to Anna's “death” happened after Anna was chased by a van. Eliot reads her death certificate to her and says that paramedic said there was no pulse in her body at the scene. But what if Eliot was in the van and injected her with something as soon as crash happened?
The corpse image of herself Anna sees in the mirror can be caused, by her imagination and drugs, the fact Eliot is at the scene of her boyfriend's accident backs up the theory too. He seemed to be killing people who didn't appreciate life.
There are clues for “she really is dead” theory too – little boy from her class apparently can “talk to the dead” too. His mother, who never speaks and looks dead may be evidence of that. But she may just easily be alive and her son may be a little sadist.
The ultimate clue for me was the scene were Anna trashes the morgue – Eliot enters and asks “why did you do that?”. If all that happened in Anna's mind (because I cannot imagine people in limbo moving around and misplacing normal obejcts) he wouldn't notice anything. Plus Anna actually runs around and picks up objects. The movie would be far more ambiguous, but less thrilling, if she was on the table throughout the whole thing.
As for her boyfriend Paul (on duty heroine's boyfriend in horrors Justin Long) and freaky stuff that happens to him – I can only imagine after being told someone close to you died you can go a little insane for a while. Why did the movie ended the way it did? Anna didn't appreciate life – she didn't appreciate love and was too scared for the second chance Eliot offered her. And Paul was the same – he didn't fight hard enough for her, he punched a kid, they both had issues plus he knew Deacon's secret.
The movie's biggest asset is without a question and, I bet everyone will agree, Liam Neeson's performance. He is amazing and frankly, one of the best villains (or is he?) I've seen. He is both kind and respectful, but he has anger and disturbing things in him. He can be sweet too, like to the little boy or families of the deceased. It's amazing how layered his performance is – no matter which theory you chose to be accurate his acting works – when he screams at Anna how frustrated he is with all those people who blame him, he either talks about the dead complaining to him or about his victims being all confused. Either way it works. The movie is worth seeing for his performance alone – he always appears to be such a nice guy but here he is truly wonderfully eerie.
The visual side of the film is very interesting, so is the score. The surreal sequences are beautiful and scary and the movie keeps the spooky and tense atmosphere throughout all the scenes. All of the terrible reviews the movie got are not deserved – the mystery keeps you watching and the whole movie is a real breath of fresh air. Yes, it's not a great movie, only good, but for a debut it's a very big achievement. And it features Radiohead's song at the end. There are no bad movies with Radiohead song at the end.