I was told once that it is bad form to start an article or speech with a question, however this film seems to require a question to be asked … so now that I have the statement out of the way let me ask you that question. If you could have just one memory in your life to live in forever what would that memory be? This is the question proposed in Hirokazu Koreeda’s movie After Life. The premise is simple, after death the dead arrive at a sort of clearing house and are given one week to choose a memory from their life in which to spend eternity. At the end of that week the moment is reconstructed and the dead spend eternity in that moment. There is a catch.
If you fail to make that decision,within the week you remain in the processing center and help with the processing of those who come after you. Not forever, but until you make a decision. It is upon this group of workers that the story focuses. Some in the center have worked there for decades, unable or unwilling to choose that one special moment. They help others make the choice they find themselves agonizingly unable to make. Meanwhile they develop relationships with each other as they work together to help others more fortunate than themselves.
After Life is a low budget and slow paced film. At first I had a hard time accepting a death processing center in the afterlife as a rundown office building. As the movie went on I soon forgot about this and found myself wrapped up in the “lives” of those running the center. At first they seemed like a sad group but over time you see that despite their inability to choose that moment they have become a family and enjoy each other’s company. As you might imagine one of the group finally does make their choice and it is their unusual choice that brings the film totally together. So I’ll leave you again with one last question. What memory would you choose?