Some souls are not rested. They just roam around us, finding ways to free themselves from the things that bind them to the Earth. This concept is depicted in the 2009 film from DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures.
The Lovely Bones is a movie adaptation of the award-winning and best-selling 2002 novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. It is directed by Peter Jackson, and stars Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, and Stanley Tucci.
Plot. On December 6, 1973, fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon (played by Saoirse Ronan) is murdered. As she is walking home through a cornfield that day, she runs into her neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). The man coaxes her into going with him inside an underground den, saying that he has built it for the neighborhood children. However, Susie senses the danger and evil in the man when she enters the den. She tries to escape but the man grabs her and the cruel murder is then done. Yet, her body is not found... Susie’s parents and sister grieve for her sudden disappearance, and through the years, the family she leaves behind is slowly torn. But little do they know that Susie is still around. Her soul remains in a surreal world, the “In-Between”, that is neither Heaven nor Earth. Susie watches over her loved ones, unable to let go of her frustrations, loneliness, and dreams. In her afterlife, Susie discovers that Harvey has murdered six other females and that her own body is hidden inside a safe in his basement. Moreover, Susie’s grown sister, Lindsey, has now become Harvey’s next victim. But Lindsey has already suspected Harvey and later breaks into his house and discovers the notebook that keeps his secrets. As the truth is gradually brought to light, and Susie’s dreams are somehow fulfilled, her afterlife begins expanding into a larger heaven. In the end, Harvey faces a fateful death and Susie frees herself and enters heaven.
Review. The Lovely Bones is a fantasy movie dealing with how a family copes up with the death of a member. In the film, we see a father in desperation and a mother in denial, and when they finally learn to accept it, justice is served. Yet, the movie has always veered from that theme and instead focused more on how Susie’s soul travels through afterlife and slowly fulfills her “life” in that world. It is a happy-sad world where she slowly pieced the mystery of her murder. Again, the film shifted into another theme – crime and punishment.
The Lovely Bones has a simple storyline interlaced with breathe-taking imagery and striking sentimentality. It has ambitiously shown us pictures of “afterlife” and “heaven” which maybe symbolic and romantic, yet unoriginal and cheesy at times. There is so much emotion evoked in the film, and the alternation of humor, love, misery, hopefulness, and terror really brought interest to the film. However, these sudden shifts of themes and emotions sometimes make a mess, and audiences are left guessing what the movie is for. Is it for adults or teens? Is it mystery, fantasy, or family drama?
The ending of the movie is also quite confusing. Yes, the murderer is found out but is not caught. He easily sneaks the safe containing Susie’s body and dumps it into a sinkhole where the ground totally swallowed it. As this happens, Susie is happy and slowly enters heaven. Could there really be happiness in that?
Unforgettable scenes. The scenes where different images of afterlife and heaven are the most unforgettable parts. They take you to the heights of your imagination. Also, the kiss near the ending, which I find very pathetic, childish and melodramatic, is also quite memorable.
Actors. The performances of Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci were most praised. I first saw Ronan in The Atonement and she was as brilliant as in the film. Ronan can really draw audiences and her innocence, dreaminess, and humor are touching and believable. Meanwhile, Tucci‘s portrayal of the serial killer is perfection with his impulsiveness and silently terrifying look. Both earned various nominations for their acting performance, with Ronan winning three awards.
Reception. The movie received mostly negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave it an approval rating of 33%, while Metacritic scored it 42%. Yet, the movie did so well in the box office, mostly from non-North American territories.
Rating. Out of five, I will give the movie three and a half stars. I really find the movie a “pretty mess” or a “beautiful disaster”. But I still love the film. Its underlying messages, stark emotions, and great special effects make the movie worth seeing again. And again.