Blu-ray Review: After Life | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 17th, 2022  

After Life

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Aug 17, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


If you could only take one memory with you into the afterlife, which memory would you choose? After Life, one of Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda’s most acclaimed films, centers entirely around this deceptively simple question.  Set over one week, After Life takes place at one facility (of many) that humans go to after their death. Each guest at the facility–around 20 people per week–has three days to choose a certain memory that they would like to remember for eternity. Once they make their decision, the facility’s small yet hardworking staff work to recreate that memory on film. This process involves them building elaborate sets and picking each guest's brain for every little detail about their desired memory. At the end of the week, the guests are all sat down in a screening room where they can watch their memory on the big screen before disappearing into the beyond. Every Monday, this process repeats itself. After Life is technically focused on two employees at the facility, Takashi (Arata Iura) and Shiori (Erika Oda), who share a bond over their job and past regrets. They are given a separate plotline that blooms mainly during the film’s final act. For the most part, the film is incredibly expansive in scope. The struggles of various guests are showcased as they try to decide which moment means the most to them. This tactic not only amplifies the film’s themes about the power of individual experience and perception but also gives viewers a taste of just how different each of our lives truly are.  To keep track of all of the various characters, Kore-eda structures After Life similar to a typical documentary. The film is riddled with many long sequences as the camera cuts from one guest to another, sitting down at a table, ruminating on certain experiences they lived through. These scenes are very reminiscent of talking heads interviews, a core part of the documentary genre. The film is also subtly directed, with little reliance on camera movement and non-overbearing editing. All of these things keep the focus on the film’s characters and their emotions rather than highlighting their journeys through their lives and afterlives.  Perhaps the most interesting and thought-provoking part of After Life is that it doesn’t seek to give viewers any theories about what happens after death. None of the film’s characters ever really question what is happening to them or what will happen to them after the week is over. It’s not even that the film shies away from exploring these things; there’s just no need to. After Life is so specifically focused on exploring what we find valuable from our lifetimes. For some people, it may be their trip to Disneyland. For others, it may be sitting in a park with the person they love, watching the leaves fall. Because of how wholly personal and introspective the film manages to get, After Life is a film that constantly invites viewers to consider their own lives and what makes them happy. In the twenty-three years since the film first released, very few other films have been able to capture and relay the human condition to audiences in this way.  The Criterion Collection’s 2K restoration of the film looks beautiful, brightening and highlighting all of Kore-eda’s stunning visuals. The release also comes with a variety of different supplementals. The most interesting are a few new interviews, including one with Kore-eda himself, and some deleted scenes. The new release is also noteworthy because this marks the first time in a very long time that After Life is available in the United States. The film is notably absent from streaming services so hopefully, a big release like this and a new restoration will help more people discover this gem for themselves.  (www.criterion.com/films/29081-after-life)


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