starring Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long
directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
screenplay by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, Paul Vosloo, & Jakub Korolczuk
Anchor Bay Films (2010)
It's frustrating when a movie with such a strong cast brings such a weak story. After.Life had the potential to be a creepy, suspenseful film about death, mourning, and questions of the afterlife. If this was a song instead of a film, it would have been sung just a bit off-key.
Anna (Ricci) is a teacher in a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend Paul (Long). After an incendiary argument at a restaurant, she leaves and is subsequently killed in a car accident. She awakes, however, and finds herself in the mortuary of the same funeral parlor in which she attended the funeral of her high-school music teacher the day before. The mortician (Neeson) and her carry on a conversation, where he informs her she is in fact dead and he is preparing her for her own funeral.
Resistant to the idea of death, Anna believes she's been drugged and abducted by the mortician, and begins searching for a way to escape. In the meantime, her boyfriend is torn up over her death, the fact that Anna's mother blames him, the director's refusal to grant him visitation of her body prior to the funeral, and the disturbing dreams in which he sees her. Then, there is the bullied student who takes on an odd preoccupation with Anna's death, as he visits the funeral parlor and converses with the director.
There is the lingering question of whether Anna really is dead, though. The mortician tells her that he has a gift that he can talk with the dead, and only he can hear them. But, while Anna is at first paralyzed, she soon regains her ability to move and sets out to escape. Now, if she's dead, then how is it she can prance about the building in her red silk camisole--a sight which I would swear was the main motivation behind making this movie at all--and cause the mortician to worry someone will see her roaming about at night. Is she a zombie?
The movie has a look that is, frankly, great. For a story that takes place in a funeral parlor for the majority of the time, the place is depicted with a strong aura of isolation and dread. The costumes are really well done too, what with Ricci's red silk teddy and Neeson's prim and proper attire. Even some of the dialogue is very good, with good on screen chemistry between Ricci and Neeson. But when all of the ingredients are brought together, the movie kind of falls apart. I won't go so far as to say the movie is terrible, but it feels like someone really dropped the ball and there is a ton of wasted potential.