After Life

Directed by Kore-Eda Hirokazu

After Life is easily one of my favourite films of all time. The premise is simple: set in modern day Japan, a group of people arrive at a small retreat. As the title suggests, the group are all recently dead. It is the job of the people who work at the retreat to take each person's most cherished memory and turn it into a brief film that will be the basis for the remainder of their existence.

This movie could easily have become extremely cheesy if it had been even slightly overdone. In fact, the reason it works so well is because it goes exactly the opposite way. The focus of the movie does not lie in the questions and possibilities of life after death; instead, the premise allows us a better perspective on the characters who, having left behind the struggles of life, are more purely and openly human than people can normally be.

This film is subtitled, but the translation is perfect; there is no awkwardness of language, which is essential, since the strength of the movie lies in communicating volumes while the characters say comparatively little.

I give this film the highest recommendation. Look for it in an indy videostore; it's worth hunting around for.