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Hereafter

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Whatever lies beyond this life, let us hope it is more thoughtful and interesting than “Hereafter,” which is a lot of dull hooey about mankind’s search for answers. Mankind’s slow, interminable search for answers.

Directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon”), “Hereafter” starts out promisingly, as a tsunami destroys a Southeast Asian island. Marie (Cecile De France), a Parisian newscaster, is vacationing there with her boss-slash-boyfriend, Didier (Thierry Neuvic), when the waves arrive, and she suffers a near-death experience.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a laconic loner named George Lonegan (Matt Damon) broods over his curse. It seems that he can establish a connection with people and communicate with their deceased loved ones. Such is the province of many frauds and impostors, but George is for real. His explanation of how he acquired this power, which comes much later, is so matter-of-fact as to be unintentionally comical.

Egged on by his brother (Jay Mohr), George made a handsome living as a psychic for a while, then quit and took a menial job at a factory. “A life that’s all about death is no life at all,” he says. He doesn’t do readings anymore, though sometimes he can be persuaded, reluctantly, to make an exception.

Meanwhile, in London, a pair of twins named Marcus and Jason (played by Frankie McLaren and George McLaren), about 12 years old, live with their junkie mother (Lindsey Marshal), soon to be divided by tragedy. (In discussing a movie about death, it’s no spoiler to say that there is a death.)

These three stories must eventually intertwine, but for now — for a very long time — they are three separate situations. George, downbeat and burdened, tries to have normal relationships despite being able to see the dead people weighing on the mind of whomever he’s addressing. Marie becomes obsessed with what she thought she saw when she nearly died, and is eager to discover whether others have had the same experience. Marcus wants desperately to make contact with the other side.

Any one of these threads could have been the basis for a very moving drama by itself; together, their emotional power could have been quite formidable. On paper, the whole enterprise sounds like it can’t miss. Yet in practice, “Hereafter” lies cool and flat, like a corpse, its spirit meandering somnolently between San Francisco, London, and Paris. There’s a slight twinge of interest when it becomes apparent how George, Marie, and Marcus’ lives will intersect, but that is short-lived. The three stories feel incomplete, unsatisfying. They don’t add up to whatever it is they were supposed to add up to.

C- (2 hrs., 9 min.; PG-13, one F-word, some disaster-related violence.)

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