Liam Neeson does a wonderful job portraying a mysterious undertaker. He's a sort of Charon, the mythic ferryman who conveyed the dead to Hades along the River Styx.
But are the dead he's incising really dead? Or are his subjects merely dreaming him and their deaths? Or more disturbing still, is Neeson a serial killer who convinces his victims that they are dead while he starts the intimate process of stitching them, dressing them, applying make-up to them?
Neeson skillfully combines the oily sympathy of a funeral director with the soft, sinister, convincing quality of a killer. So which is he? This film keeps us guessing - and then some. It layers anomaly on anachronism. In that respect, it's a little like "The Shining" in which all sorts of supernatural elements, from telepathy to reincarnation, were mixed so thrillingly that the viewer didn't notice the overall incoherence of it all. Here we get a similar random potpourri of mystic, mystifying elements.
For example, there's the boy who's fascinated by the undertaker's art and who is becoming Neeson's sorcerer's apprentice. Having a youngster hovering wanly in the morgue is odd and unlikely enough by any interpretation of the movie's meaning. But then we see the boy at home. His mother appears too old and strangely desiccated to have borne him just ten or eleven years previous. But more puzzling still - while the movie as a whole is set in the present, with modern cars and all the modern conveniences - the boy's mother is seen staring at an episode of "Beat the Clock" on TV, a game show hosted by Bud Collyer and last aired in the mid 1950's. There's also a 1950's phone in the morgue. What are these brief time displacements supposed to mean? And what is that mysterious dot between "After" and "Life" doing in the movie title?
Director Wojtowicz-Vosloo does supply a pat interpretation of the film in a brief bonus commentary. She says, "Of course, the explanation is..." I don't think there could be any "of course" about it though. There's no single interpretation that could cover all the actions and oddities of the characters in this film. The Director's reductionism detracts from the spell cast by the film.
Despite there being a few too many conflicting spirits here, the film is haunting and poignant. Under its shroud of uncertainty, it left me with a greater appreciation for the preciousness of life, and that's a rare sentiment to carry away from a movie these days.