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After.Life (2009)

DVD Cover (Anchor Bay)
Director:
Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Starring:
Christina Ricci Christina Ricci
Liam Neeson Liam Neeson
Justin Long Justin Long
Chandler Canterbury Chandler Canterbury
Celia Weston Celia Weston

5.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Psychological Thriller, Supernatural Thriller, Thriller
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Review by Crispy
Added: August 17, 2010
Elementary school teacher Anna Taylor's life is, to put it kindly, a total fucking trainwreck. She has no passion for her relationship with boyfriend Paul Coleman, completely blows off one of her students who's obviously having trouble at school and at home, is addicted to her prescription medication, and is quite possibly bipolar. It all comes to a head when she mistakes Paul's marriage proposal for him dumping her, and drives off like a mad-woman into a raging storm, wrecking her car in the process. She wakes up soon after, but to her dismay, she's woken up in the morgue, with coroner Eliot Deacon preparing her body. Obviously, she protests that she's alive, but Deacon insists that she is quite dead and that he has a gift that allows him to talk to the recently departed, which he uses to help them in their transition from life to death. This isn't sitting well with Anna, and she continues to do her best to convince him that she's perfectly fine. Likewise, on the outside, Paul can not accept that Anna is gone and begins to investigate both her death and Deacon himself. Individually, the two begin to believe that the coroner's intentions might be entirely more sinister.

Now, I have never been a fan of Justin Long, in no small part to those brain-dead Mac commercials that moved him into the spotlight, and his performance here is definitely not changing that. The man has no charisma whatsoever, and it's all exacerbated by just how shitty the character was. First of all, that relationship is so obviously shot, and yet he's still wanting to marry her? Then when she dies, he completely loses it to a laughably extreme level. We're supposed to root for such an emotionally weak character? I think not. Fortunately, the rest of the cast are enough to make up for that deficiency. Liam Neeson and Christina Ricci, Deacon and Anna respectively, have both shown time and time again that they've nothing to prove in front of a camera, and they've both brought their A game here. And as an added bonus, child actor Chandler Canterbury manages to not be complete garbage as one of Anna's more emotionally disturbed students.

I think what made this movie as strong as it was is the way director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo was able to bounce back and forth on whether Anna was actually dead or whether Deacon was just a homicidal maniac playing mind games. As the film progressed, I was convinced of either possibility on multiple occasions, only for some new development to flip my opinion back again. The side plot involving Jack's morbid curiosity and his strange relationship with his mother only serves to add to the confusion. Even as the movie reaches its closing moments, we're still not giving a bona fide answer. Sure, we're given some blatant evidence supporting one side, but there's more than enough circumstantial evidence to lend credence to the other as well, and a quick glance at the movie's forums on a few movie sites will show multiple debates on the subject. Also, I would like to thank Wojtowicz-Vosloo for not insulting our intelligence by showing us flashbacks every time a revelation was made.

Now, as much praise as I'm giving the "where it this going" route taken, there's a good chance it will also prove to be this movie's biggest weakness, as I'm not sure how well it would hold up to repeat viewings. Films like The Sixth Sense are able to get around this because once you know the grand revelation, you can watch it again from that perspective and it's a whole new experience. You really don't get that with After.Life. So while I'm definitely recommend seeing it, it may not warrant a purchase. Of course, Christina Ricci spending a good third of the movie stark naked may be enough to push it over that threshold; I know it certainly does for me. 7.5/10.
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AttnDefDis #1: AttnDefDis - added 08/17/2010, 05:30 PM
Thank you for reviewing this 385. My biggest problem with this were the plot holes. SPOILERS GALORE: She is alive, that is for certain and she is in Deacon's care for three days. Why does she not need food or water or to use the bathroom ever? I know this made up drug is supposed to give you all of the signs of death, but why is she so unfeeling? Like when he's stitching up her forehead (which heals throughout the movie) or when she hits her hand on the slab repeatedly and why wouldn't it be broken or at least bruised? I agree that Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson and even the kid did a great job and the concept was interesting, but I had a lot of problems with this movie. Justin Lon was awful, like he is in everything. Why is he so appealing to casting directors? Aside from him, I really would have liked to get to know Anna better. Why has she given up so completely? In the flashbacks she's happy and they allude to some event happening, but never say what it is. They introduce the mother so generically and try to throw a back story at us. Apparently Anna took care of her and Paul has "taken her away". I almost wish they hadn't introduced the mother at all. Also, Paul and Anna's relationship is pretty important to the story, yet they didn't build it up at all. We have almost no understanding of what they meant to each other. As you said, Paul totally loses it and we don't really know why. I thought the most disturbing thing was that Deacon was able to recruit the kid. Who seemed like he might have been a hero, but will instead turn into a serial killer. What's with his catatonic mom and why is she like 90?

Seriously, interesting concept, good performances, but plot holes and poor supporting story line all the way around. The only reason I could see anyone enjoying this is for Christina Ricci's nude scenes, but she's been naked before and in better movies. I feel like I wasted my time with this one.
Mark Heskin #2: Mark Heskin - added 10/13/2010, 09:42 AM
Spoiler - Good points AttndefDis! So Deacon causes the car crashes, drugs the victim before the paramedics arrive, only does this to people who are not living life to the fullest, and gets by with this dozens of times?! I was trying to wrap my mind around that. It really wasn't explained. In the directors commentary she points out Deacon's white van is behind Anna's car when she crashes. Who would have noticed that? I liked the movie a lot.
Crispy #3: Crispy - added 01/22/2011, 10:24 PM
MORE SPOILERS: I know I"m late but I didn't even see the comments to this. Anyway, all the plot holes you mentioned about the lack of feeling or need to use the restroom is exactly what I was referring to when I said "enough circumstantial evidence to lend credence to the other". Likewise, I felt the kid's catatonic mother was meant to allude that she was in fact dead and he also had Deacon's gift.
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