Monday, 26 September 2016

After.Life (2009)

Schoolteacher Anna Taylor is clearly unhappy with her life, but unable to even express her unhappiness, let alone correct it.  She has joyless sex with her boyfriend Paul; then denies that there's a problem when he asks her.  She pops pills - a prescription of some kind, though we don't know what for - on a frequent basis.  She always orders the same thing when they go out to eat.

Given the emptiness of her life, it's perhaps a surprise that Anna is initially so adamant that she isn't dead.  She's awoken, you see, in the morgue at a funeral home, and the funeral director is in the midst of preparing her for her own funeral.  He assures her she is dead - from a car accident - and even shows her the death certificate.  He explains that he has the ability to speak with the recently dead and help them come to terms with the own ending.  No-one else will be able to hear her.  Is he telling her the truth, or is this all some kind of twisted game?

As premises go, it's not a bad one, and the makers of After.Life have landed a strong cast, as you can see from the image above.  If only the script and characters lived up to the scenario and actors.  Alas, Anna comes across as rather passionless and passive in the film, and Paul - despite his obvious love for her - is not an especially likeable fellow.  It's hard to root for them, even if you assume the funeral director is lying to her.  And on that question I think the script tries to have its cake and eat it, too: it drops lots of strong hints that Anna is actually still alive, but in that case the funeral director has to be incredibly brilliant and lucky to carry things off.  Implausibly so.  Perhaps even more damningly, the film neglects to fully create stakes over the question of whether she is alive.  There's never a clearly stated negative impact for Anna insisting she is alive  In that context, why should she not, and why should we care about her if she fails to do so?

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