I know a man who heard from his son after the lad was killed in a car accident. The man said his son spoke to him in a dream, his voice as clear as it would have been had he been physically present. The son said, “I’m alright, Dad. Don’t worry about me,” — true story. This subject — who we are absent our physical selves, and life after death — is one I’m interested in. I always applaud more thoughtful takes on the subject. This is the case with The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), based on the novel by Alice Sebold.
When The Lovely Bones opens, we meet Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan). She’s a bright, pretty, friendly girl in her early teens. She comes from an artistically inclined family. Her father, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), builds model ships, mostly the kind in bottles. Her mother, Abigail (Rachel Weiz), knits. Susie’s chosen medium of expression is photography and she pursues it with passion. She is determined to go pro and work for National Geographic. She also has a crush on a boy, Ray Singh, who looks East Indian but sounds British.
Susie leads a full life with colorful people who care about her, and her future looks promising. Then, she meets Mr. Harvey, who murders her. Her murder begins an 11-year journey with her in the “in-between” and witnessing the aftermath of her murder and how it continues to affect all those involved. Not only does her family suffer with the large bleeding hole left in their lives, her killer continues to go free. Other souls warn Susie it’s not good for her or for those she left behind to linger. Still, linger she does … but nothing can last forever.
The Lovely Bones made quite an impact when it was released with plenty of media attention and good reviews. The violent act which started Susie on her otherworldly journey was inspired by Alice Seybold’s memories of her own violent encounter while in college. Much of the rest of the book deals with grief, as does the movie. The book is deeper, of course, but some of the ideas the book tries to communicate are in some ways better handled by Peter Jackson’s efforts in this film, an absolutely incredible visual feast, the way it depicts Susie’s afterlife.
This film is about feeling and emotion, not action. To truly enjoy this film, you have to be swept up in its ideas, concepts and gentle flow. If not, odds are you will be immensely bored, as were many of the teenage girls I saw in the audience who were perhaps expecting a Harry Potter or Twilight type movie. This is not that kind of movie. To fully enjoy this movie, you need an actively engaged mind and an attention span. If not, this movie will likely disappoint you.