Posts Tagged ‘afterlife’


Ghost Town stars Ricky Gervais – in his first Hollywood role – as Bertram Pincus, an irascible, antisocial dentist, who has little interest in other people. However, after a standard hospital operation he suddenly finds that he is able to see ghosts. Everywhere. And they all want something from him. Recently deceased Frank (Greg Kinnear) is desperate to stop his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) remarrying, and begs Pincus to help break up her relationship. Pincus agrees merely to get Frank off his back, but starts to realise that not only is Gwen’s finance a decent man, but that Bertram himself is developing feelings for her.

Whether or not you enjoy this film is going to depend largely on whether or not you enjoy watching Ricky Gervais. For my money, he is a superb comedian and I’ve never watched anything he has done without thoroughly enjoying it. He’s irritable but also very relatable and brings pathos to the role of Pincus, especially towards the end of the film. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are also both excellent in their roles. There is a lot of humour to be found here, and when the film ended I had a big smile on my face.

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This novel is set over the course of one day, and it starts with Nathan Clark being a witness at his own funeral. His wife, father, children and best friend are all there, along with two people who he can’t identify. Unable to remember how he died, and unable to rest until he can remember, Nathan watches his family from some kind of afterlife, and remembers fragments of their life together while he tries to piece together exactly what has happened to him.

I loved the premise of this book, but I think I was expecting it to be more of a mystery or psychological thriller than it actually was. Instead it’s more of a slow burner – the first part in particular is very fragmented with Nathan being thrown from one scene or memory into another. Sentences end halfway through to reflect half remembered scenes from Nathan’s life, and suddenly he is flung to another time, another place.

There is no doubt that the writing is very elegant, and occasionally exquisite. I loved the idea behind the novel, but somehow despite this I never quite became enthralled by it. I was interested enough to keep reading, and like Nathan, I wanted to find out how he died but in the end, that wasn’t really the point. We find out early on that his youngest daughter Lois died some time before, and although initially Nathan can’t remember how she died, the answer to this particular question is revealed – and that’s when pennies drop and things start falling into place.

I did find this book an easy read despite the heavy subject matter, but I never quite managed to connect with any of the characters. Nathan’s wife Cheryl may have been the love of his life, but for my money she was downright unlikeable – same goes for his best friend Adrian, and his father Frank. I did quite like his two children Gina and Luke, but I never felt that we really got to know them well enough – especially not Luke, who is relegated to something of a background character.

Overall though, while I can’t give this book a definite thumbs up, it’s also not a thumbs down. I would be intrigued to read more by this author.

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Richard Dreyfuss is daredevil pilot Pete Sandich, who specialises in putting out forest fires, and Holly Hunter is his girlfriend Dorinda Durston, who loves him, but worries about his safety, particularly as he shows no real caution when flying.  Pete is killed in an accident, and in the afterlife he meets an angel (for want of a better word) named Hap, played by Audrey Hepburn in her last film role.  Following her advice, he tries to help his girlfriend through her grief, and mentor novice pilot Ted Baker(!), who falls for Dorinda.

I only really wanted to watch this film for Audrey Hepburn’s appearance.  She isn’t in the film for long, but her parts are lovely, and who better than Audrey to play a serene angel?  She had largely retired from acting at this point, and died four years after this film was made, but it is a fitting role for her swan song.

The film itself was hugely enjoyable, but you will DEFINITELY need tissues, because it is a real tearjerker.  Dreyfuss and Hunter are excellent, and the relationship between Pete and Dorinda is really believable.  John Goodman provides excellent support as Pete’s friend Al, who tries to look out for Dorinda after Pete’s death.  And Brad Johnson plays Ted Baker with sympathy.  Although Pete is hearthbroken to think of Dorinda being with someone else, Johnson makes Ted such a nice guy that it’s hard not to root for  him too.

This film is a remake of A Guy Named Joe (1943), and there are also similarities with Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore film Ghost, although Always preceded Ghost.  (I mean honestly, if Unchained Melody makes you cry because of Ghost, I’m sure that Smoke Gets In Your Eyes will have the same effect after watching Always!)

Overall, this is a beautifully acted, gentle and emotional film.  As mentioned earlier, I watched it purely because of Audrey Hepburn, but it is well worth seeing on its own merits.  I definitely recommend it.

Year of release: 1989

Director: Steven Spielberg

Producers: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Richard Vane

Writers: Jerry Belson, Dalton Trumbo (screenplay ‘A Guy Named Joe’), Frederick Hazlitt Brennan (screenplay adaptation ‘A Guy Named Joe’), Chandler Sprague (story ‘A Guy Named Joe’), David Boehm (story ‘A Guy Named Joe’)

Main cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Brad Johnson, Audrey Hepburn

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This is a 1946 movie, starring David Niven and Kim Hunter. Niven (who is outstanding here), plays Peter Carter, a British airman in World War II, who jumps out of his burning plane, to – he believes – certain death. In his last moments, he makes radio contact with an American woman (Hunter) working for the American Air Force. When he wakes up, he thinks he is in heaven, but realises that despite the odds, he has actually survived the fall. He meets June, the woman he was talking to on the radio and they fall in love. But in the afterworld, Peter’s presence is awaited – he was not supposed to survive the jump and only did so because Conductor 71 – a being employed to bring souls to heaven – missed Peter. Peter then has to take part in a celestial trial to fight for the right to remain alive and on earth…

The storyline sounds like something straight out of science fiction, and in a way it is, but this film is so much more than that. I was captivated from the start, and will certainly be watching this film again (and again). David Niven is perfect as Peter – conveying his new found love and affection, his utter bewilderment when Conductor 71 arrives to take him to the afterlife (never referred to as ‘heaven’), and his anger at his life being taken away from him just when he has met someone he wants to share it with.

Kim Hunter – largely unknown at the time of this film – is lovely as June. She brings humour to the role, and such vulnerability. Excellent support is provided by Marius Goring as Conductor 71 – who alternates between being hilarious and slightly creepy; and Roger Livesey, as a Doctor who tries to help Peter and June.

The film used colour to great effect – life on earth is shown in normal colour, but the afterlife is shown in black and white. Indeed, the afterlife seems a dull, monotonous place to reside, and the message which I took away from the film was that we should treasure our life on earth while we have it – it’s all we can be sure of, after all.

This film was originally made due to a request from the Ministry of Defence, who wanted to emphasise the importance of British and American cohesion and mutual respect (at the time it was made there was hostility between the two countries, and this does tend to come through in some of the trial scenes). However, it clearly transcended it’s original purpose. This is a lovely moving film, with humour and pathos, and it is very thought provoking; additionally the note-perfect cast make this a joy to see.

If you haven’t seen this film before now, don’t miss out any longer!

Year of release: 1946

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Writers: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Main cast: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Marius Goring, Raymond Massey

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After his relationship breaks down, Zia (Patrick Fugit) commits suicide, and finds himself in a bizarre purgatory especially for people who have killed themselves.  This particular afterlife is very much like ‘normal’ life, except that everything is just a bit worse!  Zia finds a friend in Eugene (Shea Whigham) – a Russian rock singer whose whole family have committed suicide and all live together in the afterlife.  Nothing much happens for Zia until he discovers that his ex-girlfriend Desiree killed herself a month after he did, and he sets off on a strange road trip, accompanied by Eugene, to find her.  Along the way, they meet Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who has recently arrived in the afterlife and believes that she should not really be there, and Kneller (fabulously played by Tom Waits), a curious man who seems to have found some sort of peace in this strange world.

Despite the name of this film, it is not a depressing watch.  While I wouldn’t agree with some of the critics who described it as hilarious, it did have some moments of wry humour.  Patrick Fugit is great as the somewhat bewildered Zia, who begins to realise that happiness can be found wherever you are.  Shea Whigham almost steals every scene he is in, and provides most of the laughs, and Tom Waits possesses an amazing charisma, and is perfect for his role.

Most of the film takes place in the afterlife and is given a washed out effect, contrasting it sharply with the few scenes which are set in the real world (mainly flashbacks of Zia’s life before his relationship went wrong).

Year of release: 2006

Director: Gorn Dukic

Writer: Etgar Keret (book), Gorn Dukic

Main cast: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Tom Waits, Shea Whigham

I was in two minds whether to watch this or not, as I felt it might be disturbing, but I am glad I chose to watch, and it actually left me with a smile on my face.

(A warning for anyone who is considering watching – it is presumably obvious from the title, but there is a strong suicide theme in this film, and while I did not find the movie itself disturbing, an early scene might prove upsetting to some).

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What a lovely book this is. This is the story of Charlie St. Cloud, a man who has been consumed by guilt ever since his brother died in a car accident which Charlie survived.  Charlie still communicates with his brother Sam, and is able to see and interact with him.

Charlie meets a vibrant young woman named Tess Carroll, who makes him realise that life is about looking forward and moving on, instead of living in the past.  But Tess is about to realize something about herself that will change everything for her.

This is a beautifully written book, with well developed characters, who it was easy to care about.  The prose flowed well, and kept the story moving.  I did guess the twist in the tale, but that did not detract from my enjoyment.

This is a very uplifting book about the choices that people make. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and would recommend it.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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