Film review: They Came Back (2004). 3/5 Stars.

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My paternal grandfather and I were very close and when he died I was devastated. One night I dreamt that he had come back. He was standing in his garden under the big oak. I was relieved and I ran to him my heart singing with joy but as soon as I was close enough to see him clearly I realised he was not the same. His eyes were empty, his posture unfamiliar and the more he looked at me the more unsettled I became. I awoke hope dashed and the grief rose up again like a fresh tsunami.

Though it has been years since he died I still sometimes dream that he is back and that everything is how it was and I still wake to the shock of grief, not as intense as it was but still prescient. This is the circumstance of French Film ‘They Came Back’, an allegory about death.

70 million recently dead arise and return to the world. The how and why are never revealed but as the authorities come to terms with the situation they realize that the risen dead are somehow deficient in the way my deceased Grandfather was deficient in my dreams. They are shadows going through the motions, living memories without the emotive spark that fuels the fire of living.

This is no Zombie flick as it is so blithely labelled, this is an intense examination of the machinery of grief as experienced through the eyes of three family’s coming to terms with the return of the loved ones. Hope, fear, confusion are among the emotions explored in this strange and unsettling little film that asks the very questions I have asked myself every time I have lost someone close. An honest and oddly imagined film, ‘They Came Back’ describes the relationship between life and death, explores the process of ‘letting go’ and offers some advice on how to manage the grieving process.

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