Friday, August 27, 2010

After Life: Review

After.Life: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long | A Constantly Racing Mind

Taylor, "Where am I?"  Elliot, "You are Dead."

What would it take to convince you that you were dead? A death certificate? Your ashen body staring back at you in a mirror? The memory of a tragic accident. That is the question the director of the film After.Life asks. Christina Ricci ("Monster," "Cursed," "Black Snake Moan ") and Justin Long ("Jeepers Creepers," "Drag Me to Hell," "Galaxy Quest") try to answer this question in this 103 minute dive down the rabbit hole of the dark world of the Mad Hatter of a mortician played by Liam Neeson ("Taken," "Kingdom of Heaven," "The Haunting"). In many ways this is a film that as director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, takes a philosophical stance, like "Saw" - what is the measure of a man's life. Or in this case, What is the measure or meaning of Ann Taylor's life.  Also please meet Anna's student Jack (Chandler Canterbury), don't mind him, he is a little creepy, like Renfield in "Dracula," he likes to start small.

Ann Taylor (Ricci) is an elementary school teacher who wakes up every day to her boyfriend trying to hump her frigid body, she showers, goes to work, meets her boyfriend for dinner, and agree not to argue for everything like her mom.  The director gives us slight hints that Ann is not a happy camper and this sets the mood for the rest of the film.  Meeting her boyfriend and live-in lover, Paul (Long), for dinner at a nice restaurant -- Paul before popping the question, prefaces's his marriage proposal to Ann with the news of having to move to Chicago - stupid.  The high strung Anna immediately accuses Paul of breaking up with her (pull out the ring idiot Paul) tells him to Fuck off and she leaves, making a scene. This film is a cautionary tale to all of us who like to speed in the rain recklessly, while dialing on our cell phones chasing big trucks with heavy loads. Within moments Taylor's life is over and she is on the mortician's slab. Waking up, groggily, she asks Elliot (Neeson) where am I? He replies you are dead. Then he shows her the death certificate. Momentarily convinced, she relaxes as she lays nude on the table, a wound on her head and chest.  Nesson asks, "Don't you remember the car crash?"  Taylor thinks back, and says "I don't feel dead."  "Why must you people always have to argue with me, It's not my fault you are dead." Like a Vietnam torture tactic, Liam Neeson tells her that she has three days to prepare herself for the journey to the other side. Also claiming that he has a gift to see between those in between worlds, it is his gift/curse/duty to help people journey out of this life. 

Thus sets the story and the tone for the rest of this psychological, philosophical mind-provoking thriller on the meaning of life and its worth.  We learn through an ongoing dialog between Neeson and Ricci that she is not happy and would probably be better off dead. The philosophical term for this mindset is called antinatalism. Playing cat and mouse with Ricci's wits and her will to live, Neeson breaks down her sad life, little by little, with lies and half truths he ultimately moves Ann Taylor's psyche closer to accepting her death.  Not like the TV show "The Ghost Whisperer," Elliot's mission is a bit different but perhaps just as important. I liked "After.Life" for the different take on getting a person to examine one's life, rather than the torture methods utilized in the "Saw" films. Ultimately my issue with this well made, well acted, well produced film is, that although director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo gives us plenty of clues as to the true nature of Taylor's existence on this plane. However, she denies us the satisfaction of celebrating that our ultimate conclusions are correct. For the most part this is an excellent film, but I did walk away feeling less than satisfied with the ending.


Movie Data
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Year: 2010
Staring: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long, Chandler Canterbury 
Director: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Producer(s): Celine Rattray, Brad M. Gilbert
Writer: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo, Jakub Korolczuk
Rating:R
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: 8/26/2010

Originally published by Robert Barbere on Associated Content on 8/10/2010