Chris Nielson dies in an accident that his wife blames herself for. While he moves on to heaven, she kills herself and is sent to hell. He follows, unwilling to leave her behind – a modern-day Orpheus.
Robin Williams is phenomenal in his role as Chris, a man struggling to keep his marriage together after he and his wife lose their children. Later, he also dies and awakens in heaven. As he struggles to come to grips with his death, he tries to reach back to his wife as well. Seeing that the pain it causes her is too great, he eventually lets her go and moves on only to realize that she is able to reach into his little slice of Heaven as the two are true soul mates. Blaming herself for his death, as well as the deaths of their children, she eventually commits suicide and is trapped in a Hell of her own design. Chris braves the hazards of the underworld to reach her, reliving the pain they both felt after their childrens’ deaths and her descent into madness to find her, refusing to abandon her even if it means choosing her Hell over his Heaven.
The visuals of this film will be the first thing that grab you. The subtleties will both charm and stay with you as well – you can’t help but notice some of the statements made in the afterlife simply through how people choose to appear. That the subject of what comes after death could be handled with such a truly spiritual (as opposed to religious) touch is also impressive. There’s no morality or judgement, even in Annabella Sciorra’s suicide, she is not sent to Hell as punishment – she is simply unable to move on because she won’t forgive herself. When Chris’ “guide” (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is asked about God, he says that he thinks he’s up there somewhere, while still leaving it to Chris – and the viewer – to decide.
Even beyond all of that, this is what a love story is supposed to be. There’s happiness, there’s despair, there’s hope and there’s the final surrender – which only leads to more hope.