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After Life

If you had three days to pick one moment in your life to relive over and over, which would it be? That's the question posed in Hirokazu Kore-Eda's deeply philosophical but not at all heavy-handed After Life. A thought-provoking commentary on both life and life as seen through the movies, After Life is set in a businesslike purgatory where civil servants meet with the newly dead to determine what part of their life they would like to repeat for eternity. Each "client" poses his or her own unique problems, from indecision to outright refusal to cooperate, but the case workers—not without their own personal neuroses, regrets, and problems—are compelled to patiently persevere. As the film progresses, however, the relationship between one young worker (Arata) and his elderly client (Naito Taketoshi) grows more and more mysterious, finally building into a sad statement of love, memory, and fate. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Kore-Eda's film is its mundane approach to fantasy: Once a client's memory is selected, a film crew sets about reenacting it just as you might film a scene on Earth. Sets are built, sights, smells, and sounds picked out, and the lighting matched just right until the deceased is confronted by a perfect replica of what he or she recalls. It's touching to watch as each impressively naturalistic actor—wide-eyed in awe—encounters his or her best memory, created from scratch and then recorded for use in heavenly perpetuity. The film, and the films within the film, are like a dream with a message about savoring existence: Learn to love in life, or risk leaving it without leaving an impression.


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