Wednesday, June 2, 2010

After.Life (2010)

Christina Ricci naked.

That seems to be the film’s only selling point, at least according to most reviews of this film. However, its actual storyline is pretty intriguing and this film has a lot more going for it that Ms. Ricci’s nudity.

After being involved in a car accident, Anna (Christina Ricci), wakes up in a funeral home where the sole proprietor Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) tells her she is now dead as he prepares her body for burial. Though Anna still feels very much alive,  Eliot tells her he has a special gift to speak with the dead and is there to help her make the transition to her afterlife. Anna’s distraught boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) comes to believe that the funeral director is hiding something and that Anna could still be very much alive. He has just a few days until her funeral to get to the bottom of Anna’s demise, but he may already be too late as Anna comes to accept her fate.

Besides all the fanboys going gaga over the nudity, there is a lot more to After.Life than T&A. It is a much more complex and intriguing film than others have given it credit for and definitely deserves a look.

Director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo (who also co-wrote the film with Paul Vosloo and Jakub Korolczuk) crafts a beautifully subtle film about appreciating one’s life before the inevitability of death. The first thing that really grabbed me was the color symbolism used throughout the film. The color red, the color of blood and of life and vitality, is used predominately. Before her accident, Anna has frequent nosebleeds and has her hair dyed red, both blood and dye shown swirling down the drain. Also, the clinical white interior of the funeral “preparation room” and the autumnal world outside symbolize the transition from life to death, the “preparation room” acting as a sort of purgatory while the changing seasons outside show the cycle of life. I don’t mean to get all analytical on you, though, so let’s get back to what works about After.Life!

Besides the symbolism surrounding the visuals, director Wojitowicz-Vosloo also infuses the story with mystery, and we as the audience are never quite sure of each of the character’s culpability or innocence. Is Anna really dead or is Eliot some sick psycho? The answers are neither clear-cut nor easy, which makes After.Life a much more satisfying and complex film.

Also, the actors all do a fabulous job in their roles. I especially loved Liam Neeson as Eliot Deacon, the creepy funeral director. He played the part with equal parts menace and charm, never letting Anna or the audience know if he could be trusted or not. Christina Ricci also gives a remarkable performance as the unhappy Anna. There are parts of the film where she is naked, but I felt the direction made the nudity feel cold and clinical, never erotic. Plus, the nudity never distracted from Ricci’s strong performance as the confused Anna. Justin Long also appears as Anna’s distraught boyfriend and gives quite a solid performance.

With all these positives going for the film you might think After.Life was without flaw, but that isn’t the case. Its slow pace certainly won’t work for everyone, and the film tends to drag a bit in the middle. It doesn’t feature visceral action, instead opting for psychological drama. Very little blood is spilled in the film as the psychological terror of being dead is explored instead. However, I thoroughly enjoyed how After.Life explored themes of life and death and what comes after. It kept me guessing up until the end, and with no clear-cut answers it stayed with me long after I had finished viewing it.

Available from Amazon!

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