Ambiguity leads to inanity in After.Life, a thriller whose attempts to intriguingly address issues of life and death are undercut by silly vagueness and sillier gratuitous T&A. School teacher Anna (Christina Ricci) is an ice queen who blank-faces her way through sex with lawyer boyfriend Paul (Justin Long) and picks irrational fights with him over dinner. After getting into a car accident after one such spat, Anna awakens in the company of mortician Eliot (Liam Neeson), who informs her that she’s dead, and that only he can communicate with her because he has a “gift” that allows him to help the newly deceased cross over to the other side. Anna can’t come to grips with these otherworldly circumstances, and as she struggles against her supposed new reality, director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo ladles on suspicious plot elements—Anna’s breath appears on mirrors, Eliot speaks to the Polaroids of prior “clients,” her young student Jack (Chandler Canterbury) can also see her—that cast doubt about whether Anna is a corpse or just Eliot’s latest would-be victim, destined to be buried alive.
Whatever the case, After.Life‘s rumination on the true nature of living (is it merely being animate, or experiencing each moment to the fullest?) is monotonously simplistic, and addressed bluntly. Corny dialogue abounds, as when Eliot laughably remarks, “You’re a corpse, Anna. Your opinion doesn’t count anymore.” And when the story isn’t indulging in clunky chitchat or graceless hallucinatory—and blood-down-the-drain—imagery, it’s lasciviously drooling over Ricci’s perpetually nude frame.
Alas, the actress’s body is the only thing about the film in good shape, as it otherwise features Long overacting in hysterical situations (the best involving him slapping the bejesus out of Jack) and Neeson behaving just creepy enough to be a potential psycho and just empathetic enough to be a kindhearted ghost-facilitator. Despite refusing to outright answer whether Eliot is or isn’t a loon, a raft of minor, pesky details eventually coalesce to suggest that the mystery does, in fact, have one definitive answer. By the time Ricci has struck her umpteenth Cinemax-worthy pose on Eliot’s stainless-steel table, however, any interest in such concerns has long since been swept away on a tide of arousal-free tackiness.