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After Life (Wandâfuru raifu)

After Life title card

Year - 1998
Studio - Engine Film Inc., Sputnik Productions, TV Man Union
Stars - Arata, Erika Oda, Susumu Terajima, Takashi Naitô, Kyôko Kagawa, Kei Tani, Taketoshi Naitô, Toru Yuri, Yusuke Iseya, Sayaka Yoshino, Kazuko Shirakawa, Kotaro Shiga, Hisako Hara
Director - Hirokazu Koreeda
Writing Credits - Hirokazu Koreeda
Music - Yashurio Kasamatsu


Twenty-one varied, recently deceased people are in a "way station" somewhere between heaven and earth. The way station is an ordinary place, looking somewhat like an aging college campus. There, a staff of case workers meet with them and instruct them to choose one happy memory from their lives which they will relive for eternity, while their other memories will disappear. They have three days to make their choice, after which a film will be created of that memory.

After Life poster

We listen in on the interviews as the individuals struggle with their decisions. One talks about her affair with a married man, another wants to forget all of his past, a defiant young man refuses to make a choice, an old man agonizes over his inability to come up with a pleasant memory, a young girl remembers her visit to Disneyland, another talks only about his sexual experiences.

When the deadline arrives, the staff works with the subjects in a well provided studio to create the scene for filming their memory scenarios.

We learn that the counselors are, themselves, dead and yet to make a choice about their own memory. Takashi Mochizuki (Arata) learns, by coincidence, that he was central to the memory chosen by the wife of one of the subjects, who had been his fiance before he was killed in World War II. He decides to choose the memory of that same moment, much to the anguish of his trainee counselor, Shiori Satonaka (Erika Oda) who doesn't want to be forgotten. Takashi assures her that he will never forget her or the experience of the way station, and constructs a very clever solution in filming the memory.

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The Japanese title, Wandâfuru raifu, literally translates to "Wonderful Life".

As director Koreeda suggests, if Heaven is only a single memory from your life, which memory would you choose?