If I had but an hour of loveI have rarely seen a film which captures the mystery of the shortness of life as does Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. I came away with a strong sense of the preciousness of each moment on earth as well as awe for the vastness of eternity. In telling the story of a young girl whose existence in this world is brought to a brutal end by a psychopath, Jackson, with superb artistry, explores not only the indestructibility of the human soul, but the powerful bond between a parent and a child. The grisly fate of murder victims tends to overshadow everything so that the memory of the person is overwhelmed by the gore and horror. While horror indeed pervades the film, the personality of fourteen year old Susie Salmon, with all her adolescent dreams and quirky innocence, shines like a beacon. Tragically, it is the very innocence, the source of her charm, which also leads to her doom.
If that be all that is given me
An hour of love upon this earth,
I would give my love to thee.
~ from The Lovely Bones (2009)
The incandescent Saoirse Ronan carries the film with remarkable aplomb in one so young, playing the part of Susie as well as providing the narrative. (Saoirse portrayed the morbid little Briony in Atonement and I hardly recognized her as the same actress.) Susie's freckled face with luminous blue eyes continually fluctuates from that of a goofy teenager to a hauntingly angelic beauty. Her innocence is carried over into the unabashed oranges of the interiors of the Salmon house, vintage 1970's, with the young, attractive parents who love each other and find the world a hopeful place. The happiness of the family, with Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as Susie's parents, heightens the calamity when it comes, completely unexpected, in spite of the many warnings.
Stanley Tucci makes for the most sinister fiend, all the more horrible for his outward neatness and trappings of respectability. One of the most powerful scenes in the film are when Susie's father comes face-to-face with her murderer. Because each man is obsessed with Susie, the father in finding his daughter's killer and the killer in reliving his unspeakable crime, they are able to see what the other knows, to their mutual horror. While the law fails, with the murderer never caught and the body never found, it belongs solely to God to punish the wicked and reward the victims in ways that Susie's family will never know in their lifetimes. Thus we all must at some time or another confront the seeming triumph of the most hideous evils over all that is good and pure; only faith tells us that in the end all will be made right, although it is an end beyond our sight.
Susie Salmon: [voiceover] Nobody notices when we leave. I mean, the moment when we really choose to go. At best you might feel, a whisper or the wave of a whisper, undulating down. My name is Salmon, like the fish. First name: Susie. I was 14 years old, when I was murdered on December 6th 1973. I was here for a moment, and then I was gone. I wish you all a long and happy life. ~from The Lovely Bones (2009)(Photo) Share