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Old 08-07-2010, 06:39 PM

NOTE: Some small spoilers follow.

Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Voslooís After.Life is a confusing little film. Most of this confusion stems from the fact that the film itself suffers from an identity crisis. On one hand you have a supernatural thriller and on the other you have a sadistic serial killer tale. The film could be one, but it canít be both and the fact that the audience is lead down both routes but never told which one to believe is its undoing.

As a film enthusiast with a great appreciation of taut thrillers, I have no problem suspending disbelief or watching a film that leaves lots of ambiguity in order to let the audience come to their own resolution. When done right, such a presentation can be magical. Think of the recent film Inception--although being an almost completely different type of film (an action-packed sci-fi caper), it made use of ambiguity in a fascinating and intelligent way. After.Life, on the other hand, is nowhere near as well handled. The unresolved ending seems more like an act of laziness on the behalf of the writer(s) than a genuine motion to elevate the story. As a result, the entire film preceding the final moments becomes null. Audiences afterwards will scratch their heads and attempt to analyze the film, but the filmmakers have managed to distract the audience with just enough useless information and unneeded events to keep them distracted from the bigger picture of the film--there isnít one.

However, itís not just this ending that tests the attention spans of audiences, itís the lack of a likable or sympathetic central character. Christina Ricci, pardon the pun, is seemingly lifeless in the leading role. She spends the entire film asking the same question (whether sheís alive or not) but I never feel anything for her as a character because the limited time we spend with her outside of Deaconís funeral home isnít flattering. Ricciís character is gloomy, moody, and never affectionate. Some may say thatís the entire point of the character or even the intention of the film, but it creates problems with the other filmís characters as well.

Justin Long plays the (possibly) grieving boyfriend. He wants to marry her and keeps a wedding ring in his pocket at all times. As potentially the only person in the film that could create emotional weight for the deceased Anna Taylor (Ricci), Paul (Long) is pretty unlikable. Thereís never an indication that Ricci or Long ever shared anything special, we canĎt quite understand why Long is so crazy about her since sheĎs nothing more than a crying drone, and (on top of all this) Long himself slaps little kids.

I repeat, Paul (Long) slaps a little kid across the face for seemingly no reason in this film.

"Damn kid made fun of Live Free or Die Hard!"

The two main leads are very emotional over RicciĎs (possible) demise, but why? Theyíre jerks and they donít any romance cooking between them. As a result, we canít connect with them. The ďheartĒ of the story is nonexistent and we could care less what happens to them. Even the supporting cast is unlikable, with one police officer coming off as a pervert. Itís just a very uneasy experience and not quite in the way the filmmakers most likely intended (because Iím guessing we were supposed to care about Anna and Paul).

The big redeeming factor of the film? Neeson as the creepy funeral director Eliot Deacon. Deacon is a very mysterious character, but at the end of the film we learn almost nothing about him or his motivations (mostly due to that awkwardly handled ending). The film is also competently directed. Itís apparent Wojtowicz-Vosloo is skilled behind the camera, but it might be a better idea if he let others review his screenplay before he steps behind it again.

Perhaps Iím being to harsh on the film as there are those who have greatly enjoyed this picture, but as with another recent movie (Repo Men), I felt cheated by the resolution. As Michael Philips often segues: ďfor my money,Ē this film just isnít as clever as it thinks it is. The idea of the film is interesting and the questioning of the afterlife and what lies beyond is open for all kind of creativity. After.Life tries to be some kind of strange concoction between The Sixth Sense, Frailty, and Six Feet Under, but the narrative just never comes together.

Related Recommendations: Drag Me to Hell, Jacobís Ladder, Stay, The Sixth Sense, Frailty, Silent Hill

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