Film Review: “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”

What happens after your death? What does heaven look like? “The 5 People You Meet in Heaven” sheds us a wonderful and creative light on this question, and that is by answering it with another question: “What if we meet 5 people who we may or may not have seen in our lives?”

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This Drama/Fantasy TV Movie shows us the life, death and afterlife of one Eddie, a war vet who have practically lived and breathed in Ruby Pier for most of his life. He grew up there, fell in love there, got married there. He came back from the war and ended up becoming the maintenance man of the Pier himself. To fate, it seemed only fair that it should be in Ruby Pier that he dies, too.

After his death, we accompany him as he meets 5 people, people who affected him in one way or another. They teach him the lessons he failed to learn while he was alive. After meeting these 5 people, he will have his own heaven, his own place, where he will become one of someone’s 5 people who they will meet in heaven. The cycle, then, goes on. The lessons are relearned, the world continues on turning.

What really intrigued me about this book adaptation, and what’s really unique about this, is that Mitch Albom, the author of the book itself, is also the producer and the screen writer. I love book adaptations that stick to the book the film adapted. It’s like witnessing your imaginations come to life right in front of you. It was paper to moving picture, word per word.

The cinematography of the film was simple, yet stunning in my eyes. The effects and camera angles were so smooth and subtle, but it had done its part. The movie, like the book, had a lot of flashbacks. In the book, you can easily determine what is present and what is past. In the film, it’s a bit more complicated. One cannot just simply narrate a chapter title.

So it stunned me, as someone who has finished the book, and a fanatic of films, to easily distinguish between what is happening in the ‘now’, and what already happened before.It was simple: color filters. Yet genius in a way that they didn’t have to give a black out, or a fading text at the corner dictating what is happening when. It comes of as an ‘intelligent’ movie, as it treats its audience as respectfully intellectual. It knows how to portray the information it had to give, and it delivered perfectly.

I would also like to thank the sets for this ‘intelligent’ treatment. Instead of showing texts like, “World War”, “Heaven”, “Past”, etc., it allows us to determine what the setting is judging by its background. We saw bright colors when it was in heaven, sepia when it was about the past, black and white when talking about the war, etc.

We also saw the different phases of Ruby Pier – from the Blue Man’s heaven, to Ruby’s time, to the present, all up to Eddie’s heaven. The weddings in Marguerite’s heaven was also impressive. It had bright, vivid colors, representing an absolutely bubbly and ecstatic environment. The war flashbacks weren’t that boring either. Being shown close to gray scale, we can definitely see the realistic side of the world. All in all, the sets were widely various, creating a wholesome
film.

The acting was not that good, though. The parts that should have made me cry didn’t. That sinking feeling in your stomach happens, and sadness kicks in, but no tears come out. It just wasn’t enough. Although, I have to admit – they tried. The music was altogether simple, but didn’t stand out that much for me. In my opinion, it just did it’s part. If it’s a sad scene, it plays sad music. If it’s Eddie having this big epiphany, cue inspirational instrumentals. But that’s it.

I would also like to recognize the lighting department. There were a lot of scenes – especially during the war scenes and Captain’s heaven – where it is dark and light can barely pass through because of the setting, but they managed to make up for it, showing the most significant eye glances and intense looks.

Even with the incompetent lighting that comes with watching a movie in school, we were still able to distinguish what was happening in the scene. We figured out what was being told even when the sounds were too soft, and the actors were close to mumbling. I have to thank the lighting department and the cameraman for that.

Altogether, it was a pretty good adaptation of the book, though I think it could have been improved more. I recommend it to anyone looking for a movie with an interesting plot.

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