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After.Life

Year: 2009
Production Co: Lleju Productions
Director: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Writer: Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo/Paul Vosloo/Jakub Korolczuk
Cast: Christina Ricci, Liam Neeson, Justin Long

Christina Ricci has never been a huge star, but she pops up in projects every couple of years that seem to go absolutely nowhere, and this in another one of hers I'd never heard of.

It's the kind of movie you really need writer/director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo to explain to you – even telling you the genre she intended it to be in would be helpful – because the movie itself gives too little away about its intentions, and the unfolding story isn't satisfying enough to stand on its own two feet.

After she has an argument with her boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) the night he was planning to propose, Anna (Ricci) gets in a car accident after it appears a mysterious van runs her off the road.

She wakes up with a nasty cut on her forehead, white as a sheet and lying on a slab only for the strange, serious Eliot (Liam Neeson) to tell her she's dead.

Anna thinks she's been locked up by a psycho, but the more she tries to escape the stark cellar of Eliot's funeral home, the more clues she gets that he might be right when he tells her he's the only one who can see or hear her, that he's some sort of spirit who guides souls from life to death.

She tries to get word out to Paul to rescue her, and despite Eliot's best efforts to keep her under wraps until she accepts her death, eventually Paul smells a rat too, and it's then the movie appears to be a horror thriller – especially when the movie reveals it might have been Eliot who ran Anna off the road.

But it's already been established that Anna has no pulse. She seems to have been emptied completely of blood. Eliot tells her he gets the same thing from all his clients because they're not ready to go. Is Anna really dead, all this just the last few neurological sparks of self-preservation?

Although I'm sure it was Wojtowicz-Vosloo's intention to not come down on one side or the other so definitively, it's a problem for the movie. The action is so knotted up with a lot of grand philosophy about life and death it feels as much like she wanted to present her thesis on the human condition as tell a story. Unfortunately it ends up doing neither very clearly.

Like Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral, it's an extremely visual piece of work – the scenes in the morgue in particular are evocative. Eliot's workspace is very organised, very angular and very, very white, shot through with arresting slashes of red thanks to Anna's wounds or the red slip she's wearing during her interment.

But the narrative is just too muddy to really make much of an impact. Is it a God/Satan metaphor? Is Eliot himself supposed to be one or the other? It never gets out of the way of it's own high mindedness and what might have been a pretty classy (and classy looking) potboiler horror just ends up a jumble.

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