The ploy of After.Life, besides trying to seem different by putting a random period in the title, is to make the audience confused about whether or not Anna Taylor (Christina Ricci) is dead or alive. The first feature length effort from writer/director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo makes a case for both sides, strong ones, and that’s where the confusion lies.
Scenes making the audience believe she is alive after a car accident are immediately countered by one where something spiritual or supernatural occurs. It never explains the latter, nor does it explain how she could actually be alive through all of this. After.Life is as lost as the audience.
The film is incredibly repetitious, with Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) constantly entering into the prep room, stating a few words, and then leaving. His ADD must be intense and is apparently the worst mortician ever, wandering the halls while the bodies simply lie around.
Much of After.Life seems to exist as an excuse for Christina Ricci to wander around completely nude, and for a good portion of the movie. The majority of her discoveries are done with her clothes off, appealing for half of the audience undoubtedly, but a rather banal exercise to see how much the audience as a whole will take.
Wojtowicz-Vosloo makes her views known in a making-of on the disc, stating exactly what her intent was, and whether or not Anna was alive. While she clearly states the clues towards her decision, she completely ignores those scenes that make a strong case for the opposing side. Doing so would invalidate her point.
After.Life is supposed to make the audience think about that time after death, what the experience would be like, and our acceptance of the inevitable. It’s too caught up in its own twist and deception to focus on those aspects though, and instead of keeping tabs on some metaphysical level, the audience just tries to keep up with a meandering script that really has no idea what it wants.
Maybe there is a reason for it, but Liam Neeson fares poorly here. His face, right from the opening frames, is a compressed and processed mess. That will remain the case for much of this AVC encode, Neeson’s first detailed close-up waiting for the final scenes at 1:36:32 before resolving any legitimate texture.
Much of the film looks a little over compressed, resolving minute details in dramatic close-ups, and then losing that same fidelity should the camera push out at all. It does play tricks, delivering in terms of deep black levels, a bright contrast, and sporadically vivid color (the classroom looks great at 5:10). It simply fails in terms of texture. Establishing shots of the funeral home are fair, yet the tress and other brush around it falter. They appear slightly muddy and unrefined.
Ricci herself is the only one given any real benefit, mostly because of the numerous close-ups she is featured in. There are a number of shots that appear impressive, such as 44:10 where pores and other facial details become clear. However, less than a minute later, Neeson appears waxy and digital at 45:15, as if he’s preparing himself for burial.
There is one scene pulled from a cheap camcorder right at the hour mark, and it looks the part. That’s to be expected. There are sporadic scenes of noise peppered about, although these are rare. Generally, the grain structure remains well resolved and clean, not to mention barely noticeable.
Much of the film takes place within the prep room, leaving little for this PCM track to do. Generally, a satisfying echo will accompany the dialogue, adding a bit of ambiance to the surrounds. The score carries a small bleed as well, although rarely reaches much of a crescendo to impress an audio fan. Some heavy drums about 37-minutes in is the closest the track comes to reaching a peak, hitting the subwoofer slightly with smooth bass.
Dialogue sits low in the mix, some of the opening conversations almost impossible to make out without a healthy volume boost. What is does for clarity it loses with the balancing. The mix does have some fun, swirling voices spinning about the sound field about 43:30, and again later in the film. It’s an impressive effect, the placement of each voice distinct and clear.
Extras include an eight-minute making-of, which is more or less Wojtowicz-Vosloo discussing the project and revealing her intent. Trailers remain.