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After Life (February 9/02)

After Life features a concept so weird that unless you're willing to just go with it, it's unlikely you'll enjoy the film all that much.

As the film opens, a group of around 20 people have just arrived at what can best be described as a run-down schoolhouse. They're quickly informed that they are, in fact, dead and have been brought to this place to perform their final task before moving on. This task involves choosing one memory to take with them to the great beyond, where they'll relive that moment for the rest of eternity. Helping them to remember is a staff of employees, former human beings that spend their days cajoling long-forgotten memories out of the recently departed. Finally, once the memory has been chosen, a film crew of sorts is assembled to film the recollection as best they can, for an eventual screening for the soon-to-be heavenward bound.

After Life's premise is incredibly unappealing - really, who wants to relive the same moment over and over 'til the end of time? - which makes the movie almost impossible to relate to. And the structure of the movie doesn't help matters, either. Much of the flick has been shot documentary-style, with the various dead folks talking about their lives and their memories. While some of this is interesting, this much dialogue about nothing by people we couldn't care less about eventually gets tedious.

And if that wasn't bad enough, the whole concept is somewhat confusing as well. After the dead people have selected their memory, a crew quickly gets to work assembling a set that's supposed to resemble the picture that's in their mind. For what purpose? I'm still not entirely sure. The dead are assembled (after each memory has been filmed) in a screening room and forced to watch a poorly reconstructed version of their chosen remembrance - after which they are apparently sent to their final destination. This whole idea of re-filming something that's already occurred for each individual is bizarre and is never explained. Why can't each person move forward with the memory that's already in their mind?

After Life does contain some interesting ideas and genuinely moving emotional revelations, but it's too little too late. However, most critics seemed to love this movie, so I could have just missed the whole point. But really, this is a potentially intriguing concept undone by flawed execution.

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