This is a film, if you are prone to thinking about movies, that you will like far more after you see than when you are watching it. This sounds like faint praise but it makes me think about films like The Passenger-- Slow and plodding but with images and ideas that stay with you. It leaves a great deal of the plot open to audience interpretation and audiences, American audiences anyway, are usually repulsed and angered when a filmmaker does this (i.e. when a filmmaker requires them to think). It leaves so much blank canvas for the viewer’s mind to fill in it is astounding. But Eastwood somehow manages to make characters who we connect to as well, at least if we can connect with imperfect people with imperfect lives.
When the credits rolled an old man behind me, and make no mistake I was a solid 25 years younger than the majority of the audience, started talking about how a kid in the movie was “ugly”. As if a Macaulay Culkin look-alike was called for in the role of a disadvantaged and morose child of the English lower class. He also commented that French actress, Cecile De France, had nice hair but he didn’t like her teeth and then commented on how the French didn’t have good teeth.
Man, if you are going to be a bigoted idiot at LEAST get your stereotypes right. The ENGLISH have bad teeth; the French eat cheese and surrender to everyone.
I bring this gentleman up to illustrate not only that old people can be as annoying as teenagers at the movies but to illustrate that this movie is going to go right over some people’s heads. If you think all child actors should be “cute as a bug” you are not going to like this movie. If you are a religious zealot you are going to leave unsatisfied. The film is also open to valid criticism but these criticisms are matters of taste as much as anything else. A filmgoer or critic who cannot abide slow pacing will hate this. Likewise anyone who wants plots neatly tied up will hate it.
I expect atheists will, without seeing this film, will jump on it for not conforming to their beliefs (in much the same way Christians jumped on the inspiring and spiritual The Last Temptation of Christ). Likewise I imagine some Christian believers will walk out disappointed. This film does not affirm faith but rather asserts that there might be some undefined something after death. It offers no answers. In this way it called to mind The Knight asking Death about what comes after in the Seventh Seal. Death has no answers either.
As time passes this film will be regarded as a serious piece of filmmaking from Eastwood, even if for now it seems to only hint at greatness.