George (Matt Damon) is a blue-collar American who has a special connection to the afterlife. His brother (Jay Mohr) means to capitalize on the "gift". However, George feels cursed by the "gift" and avoids physical contact with anyone. He allows himself to let his guard down by joining a cooking school where he meets Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) who breaks through his silence. There is a mutual attraction and soon find themselves in George’s home where, by accident or by fate, she learns about his "gift". She pleads for a reading which George reluctantly provides only to reveal the truth. It’s hard to tell who’s more horrified by the revelation, but it isn't shocking that they never see each other again. The chemistry between Bryce Dallas Howard and Matt Damon seemed desperate and uncomfortable to watch and doesn't really contribute to the decisions made by George as much him losing his job.
On the other side of the world, Marie (Cécile De France), a French journalist, has a near-death experience during a tsunami that shakes her reality. She experiences a feeling of weigthlessness, with no sense of real time or motion, but all knowing and sensing. She begins to question "what happens when you die?" where she turns to the Internet to help find an answer leading Science while she is battled against Atheism from her boyfriend (Thierry Neuvic). She begins researching her experience from a scientific understanding and is confronted by opposition from her publisher for taking on what is believed to be an irrational topic due to the strong and varying religious beliefs.
The most compelling and emotional story comes from a London schoolboy, Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren), who loses the person closest to him, his twin brother Jason. Desperately searching for answers, Marcus finds himself at the Center for Psychic Advancement and other frauds that give false hope to those desperate for closure. Without his brother and an unreliable mother (Lyndsey Marshal), Marcus is forced into foster care. Marcus wears the hat that belonged to his brother as an homage to his brother, the sole reminder and keepsake.
With George's appreciation for Charles Dickens comes some memorable lines that provide even more substance to the film.
I left all who were dear to me, and went away; and believed that I had borne it, and it ... it became a hopeless consciousness of all that I had lost - love, friendship, ... a ruined blank and waste, lying wide around me, unbroken, to the dark horizon.The symbolism of Charles Dickens and his connection to the story is best depicted by the painting "Dickens' Dream" as seen during George's visit to the historical London home of Charles Dickens. On hearing of Dickens' death in June 1870, Buss was moved to attempt a large watercolor, 'Dickens's Dream', which portrayed the dozing author seated in his Gad's Hill Place study surrounded by many of the characters he had created. This imagery is similar to how George's "gift" appears to work for him.
Following the cinematic formula you are waiting until the moment when each of the characters search for the truth finally intersect. I wanted to like the film more, but the story being broken into three pieces took value away from each other rather than complimenting it. The individual performances were all good, with the exception of Jay Mohr who seemed to be out of his element (comedy). The visual aspects of the film are stunning and the attention to detail is something we have come to expect from Clint Eastwood. Having missed this in the theaters in 2010, I doubt my opinion would have been any different. This is a quality 3 Quack film that has recently been playing on HBO, and if you are looking for something to watch do not hesitate.