I read Alice Sebold’s novel ‘The Lovely Bones’ a couple of years ago and remember being shocked by the subject matter. In the first couple of chapters the main character, a fourteen year old girl, gets raped and murdered by one of her neighbours. Afterwards she watches her family from ‘the inbetween’ – the place between heaven and hell. When I heard there was going to be a film adaptation, I was intrigued about how a movie would handle this unusual storyline.
Lord of the Rings Director Peter Jackson was the guy to take on this challenge, but if you’re expecting to see an action packed movie here, prepare to be surprised. Jackson gets the grizzly bit out of the way in the first twenty minutes and leaves out the graphic details of the novel. Whereas the book left no doubt about the horror Susie Salmon underwent in her final minutes, Jackson barely touches on the matter and leaves the viewer to work it out for themselves. It still successfully achieves the shock impact though, as Susie is lured by a seemingly friendly local neighbour into an underground den. Although you don’t know what he is planning to do to her, it’s very clear something gruesome is on the cards. Stanley Tucci plays the part of the murderer George Harvey and it’s his performance that really makes the film quite terrifying. He looks harmless enough, but when he’s alone with Susie the mumbling incoherent noises he makes as he’s talking to her are really quite disturbing. The viewer start to share Susie’s discomfort as she begins to sense she is in a dangerous situation.
Plot Synopsis: Following her murder, Susie moves to the afterlife and is stuck in a place called ‘the inbetween’, from which she watches her family as they learn about her death and try to live without her.
The best scenes were those that took place in Susie’s ‘inbetween’ world’, as the cinematography was incredible. It combined images from Susie’s past life when she had been alive, and images from her nightmarish death. For example, at one point Susie feels like she’s drowning (her murderer is throwing evidence into a lake), but she lands on a soft bed, which presumably was from her house. This constant contrast of bad and good reiterates the idea that Susie is halfway between heaven and hell, and that she won’t reach an idyllic heaven until her mind finds peace.
I found this a compelling film, but I was disappointed with the ending. Without giving too much away, the plot seemed to change direction and meaning suddenly in the final ten minutes. It seems to be about Susie’s family getting justice, but then we’re told it’s not about that at all, and it’s actually about them coming to terms with her death and learning to live with it. The come-uppance George Harvey gets seemed like a bit of a cop-out to me and didn’t really feel like enough. I can’t remember if the novel had the same ending or not, but for a film ending, it definitely needed a little more oomph.
Dir: Peter Jackson
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon