What happens when we die? It’s a question that none of us will ultimately know the answer to. It’s a question that opens up a great many doors for entertaining answers from those with different perspectives.
After.Life is a film that focuses on the time between death and ultimately passing on to the great beyond. How one must come to terms with their time on earth, and whether or not they believed they lived up to their potential in their own eyes, is its focus. Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) is a young schoolteacher who throws back pills like candy to help fill the emotional void that surrounds her. Her boyfriend, Paul (Justin Long), keeps trying to reach out to her to express his love and try to help her. He is constantly met with either a blank expression or an attention-grabbing tantrum that starts them back at square one.
After one such argument Anna drives off in the rain and ends up getting in what appears to be a fatal accident. Waking up laid out on a mortuary slab, Anna’s death may not be what it appears to be. This may sound as confusing to you as it is to her, as how can she be waking up if she’s dead? Enter Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson), a funeral director who explains to her that he has a unique gift which allows him to speak to the dead during their transitional phase. His task is to help prepare them to finally cross over.
Everyone wants to deny this fact he explains, but the sooner Anna accepts that her mortal life is over the quicker she can move on to whatever awaits her. Trapped inside the funeral home, with nobody to listen to her but Eliot, Anna has no choice but to begin to look back at her life and try to understand what brought her to this point in order to make sense of it all before it’s too late.
After.Life is an entertaining film that hits certain high notes but unfortunately doesn’t ever reach its true potential due to what seems to be an unpolished script. The ideas are all there and the intrigue builds up quite well throughout; if one doesn’t dwell on certain points it’s quite an enjoyable piece of cinema. It’s just that those points are unavoidable. But one thing that can’t be overlooked is the quality acting.
Ricci continues to be a top choice on the independent scene and it shows why once again here. Her work as the emotionally repressed Anna is solid; her personal journey in dealing with the loss of her own life is top notch and makes you wonder why she never really got her due in the mainstream. Neeson continues to prove he can make the best out of everything, as his character is actually quite intriguing, with many layers that would have been better showcased if the script had come together more soundly. Long also does some great work here, as the grief-stricken boyfriend who can’t come to terms with the loss of his love and vows to find out what really happened to Anna.
Writer/Director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo does a great job here, both visually and conceptually. Her ideas and direction show that she’ll be someone we hear from a lot in the future, whether it be in this genre, or another.
After.Life is a film with a message, and regardless of how you view the film, the message comes across loud and clear through some perfectly delivered lines from Neeson’s character. While the film eventually collapses under its own weight, especially in the third act, it’s still a thriller that’s enjoyable enough to recommend. One can’t help but notice with a bit more fine tuning, it could have been truly memorable.
The picture looks great, and extremely crisp. The film primarily takes part in the mortuary of the funeral home, with Ricci’s skin constantly becoming more and more pale, which also comes through perfectly clear. It’s incredibly sharp, and quite easy on the eyes. The audio was solid, though at some points I found the dialogue quite soft in comparison with some of the quick cuts into noise-filled scenes that followed. This seemed to eventually balance out, though constantly having to fiddle with the volume is still something some may find distracting.
There’s an audio commentary to be found with co-writer/director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo. It’s in these special features we can see just how excited she is about her work, and this is likely why After.Life is as enjoyable as it is, even with its faults. For those who wish to know a little bit more about what she was thinking throughout the making of the film, definitely check this out.
Delving Into the After.Life: Making of a Featurette – This 8 minute featurette sees co-writer/director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo talking about the film, and answering certain questions that may be lingering in the minds of those who just watched the film. Although it’s highly doubtful this would be watched before the film, be warned that it’s filled with spoilers.
There’s also a theatrical trailer for the film as well.
With solid performances, an intriguing story, and a great concept, After.Life could have been a film to be raved about; however, due to a lack of polish in the transition from script to screen, it instead it finds itself in the recommended, but nothing special category.
Anchor Bay Films presents After.Life. Directed by: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo. Starring: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long. Written by: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo, and Jakub Korolczuk. Running time: 103. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: August 3, 2010.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.