A Review of Hereafter, from a Writer’s Perspective.

Wow.  It’s been a long time since I started a movie, and my husband and I mutually agreed not to finish it.

“Hereafter” had everything.  It should have been a great movie.  It started off okay.  Was it poor direction?  Poor presentation?  Poor story?  Driving in to work today, I tried to figure it out, to make sure I don’ make the same mistakes in my writing.

“Hereafter” starts with a negative.  Subtitles.  I was okay with it, though.  After a while, however, it got to be too much.  At one point about half way through, my husband started to forward the parts with the subtitles.  Funny thing is, we didn’t miss anything… and I think that’s part of the problem.

Pacing, and false-action beginning.

When I first started writing, I read a blog, and I wish I could remember her name, but she said something that has stuck with me.  “The first chapter is a promise to your reader.”  She went on to say that your first chapter should exemplify what your reader can expect from the rest of it.

“Hereafter” starts with a couple on vacation (speaking French, with subtitles)  They have a beachfront hotel room, and a tsunami hits.  Great heart-pumping beginning. After that, the movie just dies.  Boom.  Dead.  Bury me, please.

We are catapulted away from that scene to Matt Damon’s character, who is a psychic who has stopped using his powers because he wants a normal life.  Okay, that part was fine.

Catapult #2:  We are then slammed to England, where two twin boys are struggling with their mother’s opium dependence.  Huh?  At first we thought it was the same woman from the opening scene, but no… totally different person.

Boomerang:  Now we are in France with the person dealing with the aftermath of surviving a tsunami

Slap:  Back to the USA with Matt Damon, who is getting cooking lessons.  Huh?

***Get on with it!***

After an hour of this, I rolled over, hugged my pillow, and said “wake me up if anything happens”

Now, obviously, I hope, all these people would come together to make a point out of this movie.   However, at that point, I was totally bored out of my mind.

I liked the Matt Damon parts.  They at least had a spark of an interesting plot.  The rest of it seemed like low-budget foreign films (no music in this move at all either, which is really weird.)

Well, I fell asleep.  This morning my husband said, “Do you mind if we just return this and get another movie?”

Normally, I would want to see what happened.  I honestly didn’t care one bit.  “Yeah, send it back.”

***So, What went wrong?***

So what went wrong?  The characters may have been important to the end of the story (I suppose, I didn’t get that far)  But if their stories are boring, do we need to know about them in such detail?

If they all come together, it could have been taken care of better in flashback or dialog right before they all meet.  Tsunami survivor can remember the horrible ordeal, and the person next to them can say “Wow, you sure had a hard time adjusting, didn’t you.”  The kids and their Mom could have been summed up similarly in dialog.


The point is… GET ON WITH IT.  The story teller lost me.  Completely.  So much so that I didn’t finish.

Look at your novels carefully and decide, honestly, if there is a place where someone might think “Get on with it.”

And watch those false-action beginnings.  I was all ready for a great action flick here.  What I got was a boring melodrama.


12 responses to “A Review of Hereafter, from a Writer’s Perspective.

  1. I haven’t seen this movie, but I SURE know what you mean. I’ll be more attentive to my writing yet again. Thank you for this point.

  2. I saw this movie and I only remember bits and pieces. I assumed it would be good because Matt Damon was in it, but yeah, I remember it jumping all over the place. I was more confused than I was bored.

  3. When reading a book or blog and the writer says nothing but blah, blah, blah, blah, I say those exact words. GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!

  4. I can understanf you. There’s nothing so downing like a bad movie or one that doesn’t jell with you.

  5. I saw this. Although it was slow moving, I enjoyed it. The images of the tsunami were great but you’re right, the rest of the film didn’t live up to the exciting opening.

  6. Thanks for this Jennifer. Very helpful indeed — I just had to put a book down for the same reason. I was slow to do so because it’s Bernard Malmud, really a great writer. I just wondered why his editor allowed all of those go nowhere details to stay in there — the book was The Fixer.

  7. We made it to the end of the film, but it was indeed a slow journey. Did not rank as one of our favorites, that’s for sure. 🙂

  8. I couldn’t remember seeing the movie until you talked about the tsunami and Matt Damon. I remember the tsunami scene was incredible and it set you up expecting so much more. I can’t really remember much of the rest, which tells you something!

  9. I guess I will mark this one off my “want to watch” list. Subtitles? Catapulting to other scenes? Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

  10. I find myself questioning every single thing I put in my stories, what it’s adding to the whole, what promises and implications it makes to the (eventual) reader. And yet I’ve read a number of books and watched more movies than I care think about over the years where someone else obviously wasn’t crafting their tales with the same care. Maybe this is a good sign for me. Who knows, but it’s a sad sign in general in my opinion.

    But yeah, always be careful what you promise your reader and make sure you deliver on it, or you may lose them quite badly.