Here After

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Here After
"Should we be wishing for a woman to die just so that a man can go to Paradise?"

What can we say about the recently deceased Michael (Andy Karl)? He was a actor - he probably gave a performance somewhere which moved somebody. He was a well meaning guy who had good friendships. He had good family relationships, too, and loved his dear old mum. Unfortunately for him, none of this matters, because shortly before his car is hit by a truck, he's broken up with his girlfriend, and it turns out that the only thing that matters in the afterlife is romantic love.

These are, at any rate, the rules as presented by Scarlett, some kind of afterlife clerk who takes it upon herself to instruct Michael that he will have to return to Earth as a ghost until he can find his one true love. This seems particularly unfair as she's played by Christina Ricci in a white wig and anybody who sets eyes on her is likely to struggle to notice other women for quite some time. Needless to say, Ricci also acts everybody off the screen, and her trademark dry wit is welcome in a film which is tonally all over the place. Naturally, once he has returned, Michael falls for a living woman (Nora Arnezeder) rather than another ghost, which leads to the film's biggest problem. What, exactly, are we supposed to root for here? Should we be wishing for a woman to die just so that a man can go to Paradise?

With this creepy notion at its centre, it's difficult for Here After to summon up much by way of successful comedy, and the more so because it doesn't acknowledge the problem, just pussyfoots around it. It also struggles to generate sufficient chemistry between its two leads to convince us that this really has more substance than a casual fling. Arnezeder is a capable performer but has too little to work with. Her character's name, Honey Bee, seems like an attempt to substitute quirk for personality, and she's altogether too accommodating towards Michael for a woman whose last suitor is still stalking her. Karl, for his part, captures the morose side of Michael well enough but fails to get beyond the weight of grief associated with his situation, never really showing us that spark that love brings. What he seems to want is something far more focused on self-gratification, albeit not (as the script is at pains to point out) of the sexual variety.

Providing some balance for this angstful romance, or at least sustenance for groundlings, is Michael Rispoli as Michael's friend Angelo, also recently deceased and, as it turns out, rather better informed about it. Becoming ethereal hasn't changed his earthy humour and he's determined to make the best of a bad situation, having as good a time being dead as he can. Here the film tries to have its cake and eat it, revelling in his tawdry existence even as Michael looks askance at it, but struggles with the fact that this supporting character has more depth than the lead.

Previously known by the title Faraway Eyes, Here After is a competently shot, sometimes pretty-looking film with a dire lack of vitality. It doesn't seem destined for a long life at the box office, which is unfortunate, because while devoted romcom fans might find it passably pleasing, it seems unlikely that anyone will fall in love with it.

Reviewed on: 20 Jul 2021
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A recently deceased man is told that he cannot proceed to Paradise without going back to Earth and finding his soulmate.

Director: Harry Greenberger

Writer: Harry Greenberger

Starring: Andy Karl, Nora Arnezeder, Christina Ricci, Jackie Cruz, Michael Rispoli

Year: 2020

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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