No one who is alive knows for certain what happens to us after we die. Through religion and science, we who are among the living can speculate, but to truly know requires one thing only – dying.
The new Flatliners movie expands upon that concept. A group of five medical students – Courtney (Ellen Page), Ray (Diego Luna), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Jamie (James Norton), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) enter into the world of the afterlife through an experiment that Courtney initiates. They stop their hearts for a minute to three minutes (depending on the person) and then are resuscitated after they experience the beyond.
I went into this movie blind; I had never (and still have not) seen the original Flatliners, and I hadn’t read any reviews on the new movie. With no prior information about what the previous movie was or what others thought about the new one, I was able to watch the film with a clean headspace. And I loved it.
The question the film wrestles with – what happens after we die – is one that humanity has been trying to answer for so long. The writers of this film use empathy, thrills, and human nature to give their audience one explanation – that there is no one explanation.
In an interview with Screen Rant, Ellen Page said that she sees Courtney’s afterlife experience not as a stock “rush” but as an “ambiguous…brain firing” that is different for every person who dies – because we all experience different things in life.
A lot of the reviews that I’ve read in preparing to write this blog post were negative. Actually, I couldn’t find one positive review on this movie in the hour that I spent researching. What I did find, however, were a lot of comments based on the original movie. (And most of these critics contributed to the 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)
The original Flatliners was apparently not as thrilling as this 2017 version. James Norton (who plays Jamie in the new film) says in this interview that he enjoys the horror aspect of the movie. He also made the comment that this is not a “reboot or a remake” but “[their] own thing” which I completely agree with. Too many critics now are so focused on judging the present based on the past.
The actual aesthetic of the movie is beautiful. The camera follows the grad students in wide angles when they’re in the hospital – a nod to the fact that they’re on display to their superiors. It keeps close during horror shots, lurking around the corners of the set as is typical for thrilling scenes. The image quality of the movie is striking; even though there are no far-off “landscape in the distance” kind of shots, viewers can still appreciate the magic of each flatliner’s after-life experience. Courtney sees “pure energy” in the form of balls of light – something beautiful that I wouldn’t mind photographing – and Jamie rides on the back of a motorcycle with city lights streaking past him.
Like I said, I loved this film for what it is – a spooky and beautiful look into the ways in which our minds react to death and loss.