Screen Rant reviews After.Life
I’m sure that the summary above is no more than what many healthy young males need to read before dashing off to watch After.Life. The film is an obviously low budget little piece of work, and I was really surprised to see Liam Neeson in it. Must have been one of those movies that looked very intriguing in screenplay form.
Paul (Justin Long) and Anna (Christina Ricci) are a young couple with what seems to be a bit of a stunted relationship. Anna seems to have… issues. She’s cold and distant and is taking some sort of prescription medication like it’s going out of style. He’s an upcoming young executive and she’s a schoolteacher, and it’s unclear what either of them are still doing with the other as the relationship has obviously gone far south.
Anna feels protective of a little boy called Jack (Chandler Canterbury) who is a quiet, sensitive boy who is picked on by his larger classmates. He feels an attachment to her and seems to be curious about death (she has a funeral to attend – of a very old relative or friend of the family). While not getting into arguments with her boyfriend (who wants to propose marriage for some strange reason) she seems to be hallucinating – she sees overhead lights go out behind her as she walks down a hallway and a corpse in a casket move.
She and Justin have a big blowout argument while at a restaurant, and after she storms off she gets in a car accident that kills her… or does it?
That is the big question upon which the entire film hinges. Liam Neeson plays Eliot Deacon, a mortician who seems alternatively compassionate and menacingly creepy. He claims that he can communicate with the dead right after they’ve died, and is there to help them with the transition from the world of the living to the afterlife.
It seems the purpose of the film is to keep jerking the audience back and forth between believing that Anna is, in fact, dead, and that she is not and that he is keeping her prisoner for some reason that only he can fathom. As to that purpose I’ll say that the film is effective: One moment I found myself thinking “Well of course she’s dead” and the next thinking “Hang on, there’s something fishy going on here with his behavior.” Watching the movie you’ll vacillate many times between those two points of view.
Eliot alternatively consoles and derides Anna, saying it’s the same every time – he’s just there to help and most people don’t believe or can’t accept they’re dead, even though they are.
In the meantime Paul is having a difficult time accepting that Anna is gone, especially since the last time he saw her they had a bad argument. He comes to believe that she is not dead, and little Jack exacerbates that when he says that he saw her standing in a window at the mortuary.
Liam Neeson is an actor that I just really enjoy seeing on the big screen. Here his performance is muted, reminding me of the initial phone call between him and the kidnapper in Taken: Very even, quiet, low key and a bit wooden (appropriate to a mortician, I suppose). Christina Ricci does a nice job in the role, transitioning from denial that she’s actually dead to acceptance (whether it’s true or not). She spends most of the film in a red slip, but eventually writer/director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo manages to get her naked for a large part of the film. While that isn’t exactly cause for complaint – it did (for me, anyway) knock points off the “legitimate” factor of the film and made it seem more exploitative.
So there’s nudity and some gore in the film (sometimes combined, which is always unsettling). In the end I just wanted a resolution to the thing and to know whether Eliot was actually a good man or a creepy, nefarious bad guy – and whether Anna was really dead or not. There was certainly tension throughout the entire film, but I’m one of those people that only wants to be jerked around so many times by a “is it or isn’t it” kind of story. After a while it just gets old.
Basically, if you like the sort of film that keeps you guessing as to what’s really going on or if you’ve missed seeing Christina Ricci naked since Black Snake Moan – then After.Life might be worth an hour and a half of your time.