Wandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by KadmonWandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by Kadmon
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Article updated: 2021.05.06

The Wandafuru Raifu / After Life (1998) is a film with fantasy elements. The movie was reviewed by Kadmon.

Product: Wandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by Kadmon

Original title: ワンダフルライフ / Wandafuru Raifu (Wonderful Life), English title: After Life

Series: -

Setting: Earth? alternate Earth?

Product type: Film, Genre: Drama, Style: fantasy, supernatural, documentary

Release: 1998.09.11 premiere, 1999.04.17 theatrical release

Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Preferences: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises to spoilers, prefers establishing elements before referencing them

Watched: very recent (2020.05), first time

Rating: Good (2+ out of 3 points), Enjoyment: Good (2+ out of 3 points)

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This is my review of Wandafuru Raifu / After Life, a movie from 1998. It's about a group of freshly deceased people trying to find their most precious memory. The After Life film is slow, but the story is interesting.

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Review (spoiler-free) - Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie

I've recently read about the Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie, but I'm not sure about the circumstances, just that I became interested in it. After a while, I got the chance to watch the film. I didn't watch the trailer before watching the movie.

The movie is about a group of freshly deceased people entering the After Life facility, where they are told they have to choose one single memory to keep for eternity.

The After Life film is a beautiful story. The characters of the movie are believable, the actors are great. The deceased feel like real people, and even the workers of the facility are not perfect. They have their own personality, with their flaws.

The locations are part of the theme, and they are fitting to the story of the film.

The After Life movie is slow, and it takes some time to get to the main points, but I think it's worth waiting for them.

The After Life film has an engaging story, I liked the movie a lot.

My experience

It was a strange experience to watch the After Life movie. I was hooked by the main premise, and - probably, just like most of the audience - I kept thinking about what would my choice be? I could have watched the movie for a little longer.

Rating: Good (2+ out of 3 points). Technically it's okay, the movie is watchable, and it's engaging.

Enjoyment: Good (2+ out of 3 points). The After Life film was an interesting, I'd recommend it.

Rewatchability: High. If you liked the After Life film for the first time, I think you'll like watching the movie for multiple times.

Chance of watching it again: Sure. I liked the After Life movie enough that I might watch it in the right circustances. I'm almost sure there are still some elements that might give an interesting experience for me, even for a second viewing.

Chance of watching a sequel: High. I'd sure watch it.

Wandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by KadmonWandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by Kadmon
image © Engine Film & TV Man Union

Will you enjoy this?

If you like mystery films, you might like this movie.

If you like family drama movies, you might be interested in this.

If you like supernatural movies, you might be interested in the After Life film.

If you prefer action thriller movies, you'll be bored. There's practically no action in this film, except for a scene where a girl is kicking snow around.

Watching for plot points

There's actually not much of a plot in the After Life movie. If you want to play a detective, you'll be disappointed. It's the experience of watching different people reflecting on their lives that makes the movie interesting.

Wandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by KadmonWandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by Kadmon
image © Engine Film & TV Man Union

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Review with spoilers - Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie

I liked the After Life movie.

Promise of the first scene

We see a couple of office workers starting their week at the office. I absolutely have no idea where will this go.

Execution: Well, the story was about the work in the office, so it might be fitting. I'm not sure this is the ideal beginning, though.

Plot summary / Synopsis

We start with a group of social workers getting a debriefing for their next week assignments. They will have to guide some freshly deceased people through the usual process - they get three days to choose a single memory to retain forever for the afterlife, and the workers get a couple of days to create a short film out of that memory. When the deceased watch their films, they disappear into the afterlife.

We get to see the people trying to find their most precious memory, and the workers trying to find the right way to shoot that scene. Then the deceased go to watch the films, and probably disappear, we don't see them again.

We get to know that the workers were ordinary people like those who just arrived, but they were unable to choose that memory, so they stuck here, in the facility, to guide others through.

One of the workers finally finds out that his most precious memory is actually the most precious moment for his girlfriend, and while it was not exceptional for him, but the fact that he caused something exceptional for somebody else, made it special for him. He gets the film made, and disappears while watching it with his colleagues.

One of the workers is sad, because he is missing the worker that left the facility.

One of the recent arrivals couldn't choose their most precious moment, so he stays.

The setting

The After Life film is set in a seeingly 1970s-1980s kind of building, that contains a gateway to the Afterlife, in a film viewing room. Everybody lives in this facilty that has access to both the land of the living, and the afterlife.

The message of the story

Pay more attention to the happiness in your daily life. Focus on the present. You don't have to achieve happiness for yourself, you should be content with making people around you happy.

The structure of the story

The scenes are mostly played in sequence. It has the usual arc of the dramatic structure, although I feel it ends three times - once at the film viewing, then at the film viewing of the worker, then again when the movie ends.

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Things I liked

  • The look of the Afterlife facility.
  • The interviews
  • The filming scenes, they gave us a sort of "behind the scenes" view

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How does it compare to the other works of the creators?

I think I haven't seen any other works of the writer/director (Hirokazu Kore-eda) of this film.

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Wandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by KadmonWandafuru Raifu / After Life, movie (1998) - Film review by Kadmon
image © Engine Film & TV Man Union

Problems with the story - Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie

Overall, I was satisfied with this movie, and I'm not sure how could I improve it.

Too many characters

The story of the movie was a little uneven, there are just too many characters in the film to focus on. We have a couple of workers, and we get to know only one of them. There are twenty deceased people, and we only get to know a couple of them, and only get to see the details of the choice of a very few.

Too many endings

There are three ending points of the After Life film.

The first is when we see the farewell ceremony of the deceased, and they go to watch their movies one by one, in the distance. Then we don't see them again. This part is a little weak, I would have liked to see all of them again, before they disappear, but as the movie still goes on, it's all right.

The second time the film ends is when the worker departs from the facility. This probably has a lot more emotional impact than the first one, because we have a chance to see him for a last time.

The third one is after the social workers gather for another meeting, and the movie just ends.

The first two are emotional endings, the third is a narrative ending. The problem is that the additional endings weaken the previous ones, especially as the end of the movie doesn't have an emotional impact, it just starts the loop again.

Focusing on the main viewpoint character

In the beginning of the film, it's not easy to point out how will our main protagonist be. In the end, it seems to me it's the councelor girl, especially as from the middle of the movie, we start to see several scenes that allow us to get to know the character. Out of the workers, we only get to see her private life, so it's a safe bet she was intended to be the main character. Yet, in the beginning, she is a background character. When we first see her, we see her back, than later, the profile of her face for a second, then she mostly spends the interviews silently.

Unanswered questions

The story was intentionally left vague, and I think it's fine.

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Possibilities of improvement

How it could have been better?

There are a couple of points that might improve the film, but the After Life movie is good even without these changes.

Too many characters

Starting with a smaller group, or including scenes for all of them would probably make us understand those people better. For example, whose movies we get to see, could be enough, plus the young guy, who doesn't get his own movie.

Focusing on the main viewpoint character

Starting the movie with the girl, following her way to the meeting, would allow the audience to start to identify her immediately.

Another approach could be to leave her private scenes, and focus on the life of the deceased. Then we could start the movie when they enter the gate, and end the film when they leave the facility. Although I'd probably prefer the original way, it's a lot more emotional.

Too many endings

We could have the endings a little bit shortened, into one scene. If the departing worker's scenes were interwoven with the rest of the story, he could watch his film with the others. So, when the group departs, he could be there with them, among his colleagues. Then, as the last one, they could watch his film, he could disappear, and the movie could end at the highest point.

We don't really get any additional information or anything of interest during the meeting scene after his departure.

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Uses for the film - Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie


  • There's an agency that handles recently dead people's departure into the afterlife.


  • The scenes where they were filming the memories were cute. They could be used to show "behind the scenes" footage.

Scenarios - Role-playing game

  • The whole setting is a great place for a very personal role playing scenario. The actual players are the recent dead, who had some accident during their role-playing session. They have to come up with their best moment in their life. The players might even make something out of that moment - an animation, or another kind of art project.
  • Dimension travelling characters are passing through the facility. In order to continue their trip, they have to find their best moment in life, so they are able to move to the next level of the afterlife.

Scenarios - Wargame

  • An attacking force from a rival organisation arrives at the gate of the base. The defenders are mostly non-combatant civilians. The attackers have to destroy some key objectives so the base would be crippled. The defenders can use their knowledge of the area, and the available equipment and gadgets they have around the place. After the attackers destroy the objectives, they have to retreat through the gate. The attackers have a number of turns to achieve their goals, otherwise they have to return, or the defenders get reinforcements.
  • There are guest visitors at a base, who are stationed here for a while before transferred. Some of the guests decide to leave the base. The workers of the base have to stop them, because they know that leaving the base would be harmful for the guests. They can only use nonlethal weapons. The guests are not restricted in weapons, but they only have access to improvised weapons.

Miniatures - 1/50-1/60 (28-32mm scale)

Human-sized human civilians.

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Similar stories - Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie


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Frequently asked questions - Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie


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Resources - Wandafuru Raifu / After Life movie


IMDB: Wandafuru raifu (1998): Database article.

WikiPedia: After Life (film): Database article.

Letterboxd: After Life: Database article.

Metacritic: After Life 1999: Database article.

Rotten Tomatoes: Wandâfuru raifu (After Life): Database article.

Online version

雄一 津森: After Life Movie Watch After Life Movie: The whole movie on YouTube. I'm not sure about the legality of this.

Reviews with no spoilers - After Life movie

Josh Nelson (for Philmology): REVIEW: Hirokazu Kore-eda Retrospective: Review article of the After Life movie with minor spoilers.§

Kevin Ouellette (for Eigapedia): Review: After Life: Review article of the After Life film with minor spoilers. (2020.05.25: The article is offline)

mirrored on Archive.org

Patrick Nabarro: After Life: Review article of the After Life movie with minor spoilers.§

Roger Ebert: After Life: Review article of the After Life film with no spoilers.

Reviews with spoilers - After Life movie

Derek Elley (for Variety): After Life: Review article of the After Life movie, with spoilers.

James Bowman's reviews:

John Berra (for VCinema): After Life (Japan, 1998): Review article of the After Life film with spoilers. It also includes background information on the making of the film.

Seongyong Cho: (for Seongyong's Private Place): After Life (1998) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Before they go away: Review article of the After Life movie, with spoilers.

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Buying the product - After Life movie


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Have you seen the After Life film? How do you like the movie? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!


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