There is an infuriating plausibility to the premise of Ryan Noufer’s The Hereafter that it makes you want to clench your fists and scream. While treading the world of corporate greed, a heartbreaking story of grief is the key to the film’s success, resulting in a triumph.
Olive, a terminally ill teen, wants her ashes spread with her late mother’s. However, Olive’s father wants her to be buried in a Selfie Casket – a product that allows the dead to keep posting to their social media from beyond the grave.
The opening 3 minutes of The Hereafter are shocking for several reasons. One, how has no one had this idea before in film or TV and two, how terrified you are that with the way our society is, that the premise is one that you could imagine some people going with. Then, we kick into the main thread of the film with Olive and her father, David, with the entire film flipping when we see the emotional wrecking ball of a dinner scene.
What The Hereafter does so well is broach the topic of grief; Olive’s father isn’t ready or willing to let his daughter go. She is all he has left in this world, and the Selfie Casket, in some morbid way, is a way for him to have her still in her life, even if it is in digital form. For those of us who have lost family members, in my case, both parents, I would love nothing more to have them around in some form. Now, of course, the way the Selfie Casket works is beyond madness, watching a rotting corpse present in front of a random background, but the sentiment it represents is crucial. If you have lost someone, wouldn’t you love to have them around in new updates somehow?
But then, as if that story alone was not strong enough to carry us through the rest of the film, Ryan Noufer throws in another thread for us to think about. Corporations like Selfie Casket are not just opportunistically pouncing on people’s grief but also actively trying to figure out which of their possible clients can push the company forward to push them up to another level of notoriety and profits. It is entirely gross and infuriating but captivating all at the same time.
Reuben and Wanda see dollar signs in Olive due to her youth and relatable face, and sure, it could just be their sale tactic, but what they try to do with Olive while she is still alive is madness. So, even when politely declined by the family, they show desperation in the value of money. Trying to guilt a dying child into foregoing her own wishes to secure her father financially is as far across the line as you can get. Noufer does it multiple times here, and each time, you feel as if it sadly isn’t far off what would happen in reality, which is despairingly crushing. I won’t lie; in these scenes in which the duo turns up, I couldn’t help but keep uttering “Oh, you fucks” or “you dirty fucks” at the screen.
Noufer’s writing and Corey Landis and Paige Cato’s acting got me; The Hereafter gets you so worked up in anger on behalf of Olive. She is literally stuck and has the anxiety-inducing realisation her own wishes are not going to be beholden to, of all people in her life, her own father.
In that first dinner scene, your heart breaks for both Olive and David; Patrick Fabian is outstanding in The Hereafter. He is a man who is breaking, and as he says he is scared of losing sight of Olive, you genuinely feel for him. However, and a very big however, when he becomes wrapped up in the Selfie Casket owner’s charade of guilting Olive, your pain for him swiftly turns to absolute anger. David has become so focused on himself that, for those moments, he forgets about granting his daughter’s last wish, even trying to reason it to her and, in truth, himself later that night.
Cailyn Rice eviscerates you emotionally as Olive, to the point that you forget that this is a dark comedy. Like her dad, she is clinging onto memories; for her, it is the voice in old voicemails of her mother. By keeping Olive, the ground “straight woman”, allows the chaos of the concept to flourish. But with Rice, there is something so tragic there in her performance that you just can’t shake, even after the credits have rolled. She is ready for death, to join her mother, to be free of the pain and sickness, yet here she is having to deal with this nonsense instead of preparing for her last days in peace. Pinned into a corner, the fear and anxiety that she conveys has you wanting to get somehow involved; it feels all too real, and that is as big an accomplishment as you can give for that performance.
Although it is perfect in these 20 minutes, you would kill for a feature-length version of this story; there just seem to be so many possibilities with the world and the situation that has been built here that it could easily cover 90 minutes. However, if this is all we ever get from this concept and story, it will remain a story that hits it out of the park.
Utterly fantastic on multiple layers, The Hereafter has you getting involuntarily angry to the point where you may even need a break from what is happening to Olive. It is undoubtedly one of the best films, feature or otherwise, of the year; I cannot recommend this film enough. Ryan Noufer has made something special.
The 19th HollyShorts Film Festival is running between 10th – 20th August with in person and digital screenings available through the 10th to 27th August.
For more information go to www.hollyshorts.com
Coverage of HollyShorts Film Festival 2023:
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