What’s your earliest memory? It seems like such a simple question but it’s one which can leave people at a total loss. It might seem a strange thing to ask and it’s not something a typical person often thinks about. The older you get, the harder it becomes to recall childhood events. There’s only so much information our brains can retain. When the chips are down, if you had to choose on thing to remember forever, what would it be? After Life poses that question.

The waystation is situated on a picturesque estate, somewhere between life and death. Every week a group of recently deceased people arrive at the private residence. They’re placed in the hands of a handful of counsellors (including Takashi Mochizuki, Satoru Kawashima, Shiori Satonaka and Takuro Sugie) and given short period of time to pick their fondest memory. This will then be re-enacted and filmed so that their owner can enjoy it for eternity.

After Life is a quiet and contemplative meditation on the importance of memory and the meaning of death. Using a mix of professional, and non-actors recalling their actual memories, director Hirokazu Koreeda gives this concept space to breathe. We are often too busy to just simply sit and listen. It’s fascinating to hear such varied and treasured stories. These are brought to life through these one-on-one conversations. After Life is a thoughtful and humanist fable.

Extras:

  • Screen Talk (2013, 47 min): the director in conversation with Jasper Sharp at the 2013 BFI London Film Festival
  • Interview with Arata (2003, 16 min): an interview with actor Arata Iura (with a brief appearance by Koreeda) shot in 2003
  • Deleted Scenes (1998, 17 min): a selection of deleted scenes from After Life
  • Feature-length commentary by writer, curator and broadcaster Tara Judah (2019)

After Life is released on Blu-ray by BFI on 17 August.