The EC:WC FCA is the East Coast:West Coast Film Critics Association - an exclusive organization consisting of myself on the west coast and one of my older brothers on the east coast. We occasionally commiserate via phone or email regarding the latest film we’ve seen either in the theaters or on DVD. Our recommendation scale is anywhere from 1 to 5 wine bottles. We take our movies as seriously as we take our vino (both of which need to be palatable yet refined, either entertaining whimsy or sparking contemplation, and always requiring a lack of pretension).
This quietly haunting foreign film posits a sobering if improbable premise – what if, all across the world, our recently deceased loved ones suddenly returned. The film opens in a present-day nondescript French town. Thousands of people are slowing streaming down streets, wandering as though they have just woken from a deep coma or a serious concussion. In fact, over 70 million people worldwide are reappearing, all having been deceased within the last 10 years. No one knows how or why this is occurring, not even those who’ve been “resurrected.”
The film centers on how this disturbing event affects both individual families and society in general. The pace is methodical and introspective, forcing us to ask previously unthought-of questions: How would you react if your recently deceased spouse, child, lover came back? What if you are still grieving the loss? What if time had passed and you had moved on with your life? Shock, joy, sadness, anger, resentment, confusion, fear – all of these emotions come to the surface along with the loved ones.
And how do a city, a business, and society as a whole deal with and adjust to the crisis? How to arrange temporary housing, medical testing and psychological evaluation of the returnees? What about counseling for the “surviving” family members? What to do about the previously held jobs and the pensions of the returnees?
As time passes we begin to learn that those who’ve returned are not quite the same as they’d been before they passed, and may never be so. They remain detached and restless, acting and reacting in a slow and measured pace. Then, after a brief period of adjustment, they all just begin to leave nearly as mysteriously as they had returned.
This is a deeply interior film that develops a disturbing aura of horror where too many Stephen King flicks repeatedly fail. No traditional zombies, werewolves, or rabid dogs. No slashing and splattering of blood and guts. It’s also a film where deeper social and societal issues are brought to the fore. Although the film fails to broach the obvious topic of faith and belief systems in the context of the event, it is a well-presented glimpse into the “twilight zone.” It’s a film that would make Rod Serling proud.
I would NOT recommend this film for someone who has recently lost a loved one, or who is still going through the intensely personal grieving process. But for everyone else I would highly recommend it, giving it 4-½ wine bottles out of 5.
Ethereal and even-paced, it’s a thought-provoking film about mourning and attachments. It’s finely acted, and the accompanying documentary on the making of the movie is definitely worth viewing immediately after the feature. The comment made by the director at the end of the documentary poses one more question: What if they never actually did return? What if we just couldn’t let go?