Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Lovely Bones (2009)

 If I had but an hour of love
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)
I 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.

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)
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Julygirl said...

I read the book, twice, with some time in between. Besides all you say in the review, plus the character development,etc., it is also a fascinating cat and mouse murder mystery.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, it is. It is a shame the film received such terrible reviews.

Allison said...

What a haunting book! I read it in one sitting until almost 3am the next morning.

Maybe I'll rent the movie based on your review.

Have you ever seen What Dreams May Come?

elena maria vidal said...

No, I haven't but I will if you recommend it!

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

It's been so long since I have visited here! It's funny how I came here today.

I have been participating in NaNoWriMo this November, but have been having a hard time getting focused on my writing today. I was distracted by reading about the Place Vendôme in Paris. I started reading about the duc de Vendôme, who had a hôtel on the location so long ago, and next thing you know on Wikipedia, I am going from link to link about French royalty, and then reading about Maria-Thérèse. In the article, at the end in the part about where she appears in popular culture references, Wikipedia mentions your book Madame Royale, et voilà, I am here on the blog now reading about the film version ofThe Lovely Bones. I really wanted to see when it was in theaters and missed it! I am so glad to be reminded of it here, and I'm encouraged by your review that I really should see it (as well as read the book, which I have intended to do for a long time, too).

But, enough procrastination. I have about one more hour of computer time before I have to share with my significant other, and my word count today is terrible. Time to try to write just a few more words. :)

I am so glad to have had a chance to come back to your site, though. I receive references from your blog all the time from the post you made about my photos and writings of Versailles. Thank you so much for linking in my posts all those months ago.

I hope you are well, I wish you success with your writing, and I hope to be back again soon!


elena maria vidal said...

Thanks so much, Karin. I want to read The Lovely Bones, too. Yes, I just reteeted my post which linked to your blog so you should be getting lots of hits today!

tubbs said...

I remember reading the book reiew in the NYT, but I never even heard of a movie being made from it.
All in all, is it a depressing read?

Julygirl said...

I do not think it is a depressing book, but I do not see it as a book a man would enjoy....too touchy feely. (At least the men I have known).

Emily said...

Thanks for reviewing, Elena! My sisters saw this film recently and enjoyed it, but since their taste leans towards the silly as far as films are concerned I did not know if it was worth my time. I will definitely see it now.

elena maria vidal said...

I had heard lots of mixed things so seeing it for myself was the only way to know for sure.

lara77 said...

I remember reading about this film and decided I could not see this. I have such an aversion to violence and deep sadness. After reading your review I thought of the French Royal Family and all they suffered. I will never cease to be amazed at the inhumanity of mankind. I really wonder how much we have progressed over the centuries. I can read blogs and the comments from some people are dripping in sarcasm and hatred. The older I get I think the less I know about the human condition. The only constant is God and knowing our life on earth is but a blink of an eyelid. It is hopefully when we are with Our Father in heaven that the pieces of the puzzle will all come together.