Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 21, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After Life

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
runtime
118 minutes
performer
Kore-eda Hirokazu
director
Kore-eda Hirokazu
distributor
New Yorker Films
genre
Drama, Comedy, Foreign Language

We gave it a B+

Albert Brooks, creator of Defending Your Life, would recognize writer-director Kore-eda Hirokazu as a comrade-in-purgatory. This gentle Japanese fantasy follows the recently departed to a kind of rural retreat where they dredge their memories to come up with a moment that gave them absolute joy, which the celestial workers will re-create and lovingly film so that the dead may savor it for eternity. (To help their clients choose, staffers conduct interviews and compare notes, proving that superior customer service really is the very definition of heaven.) The simplicity and poignancy of the choices — riding a bus, swinging on a swing — and the great variety of interviewees result in a film of nonsticky freshness, as well as unforced profundity. Short of Rip Torn as one’s advocate in the Brooksian afterlife, the dedicated workers in this parable are the best allies a soul could have in this life or the next. B+

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