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The Lovely Bones (2009)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

The Lovely Bones is a murder non-mystery. By telling us at the start that Susie Salmon was murdered and near the start who did it, the film turns the focus to the lives and relationships of those left behind. To be sure, it is useful to explore such a loss, even though it’s been done before, but The Lovely Bones adds a particularly interesting construct: Much screen time is given to Susie’s post-death “life,” where she inhabits a nether world between earth and heaven. From this vantage point, Susie observes and narrates much of the action in the film.

On the whole, it works very well — even if Susie does a bit too much narration. It works, that is, if we don’t get hung up thinking that the film is presenting some sort of reality of the after life. Instead, viewing Susie’s nether life as a metaphor for her memory in the hearts and lives of those left behind, The Lovely Bones insightfully explores the phrase “rest in peace” from a new vantage point. Seen in that light, the film is very well worth watching (despite what many critics say). Personally, I related it closely with the murder of my own sister. Though the film is uneven and unsteady in places, it is very strongly bouyed by Saoirse Ronan’s outstanding presence and performance.

At age 14, Susie Salmon is discovering love and pursuing a newfound interest in photography. She is engaging and creative, though unsure of herself (as many teens are). Then she’s murdered. Of course, her death is hard on her family and their relationships. But Susie is watching over them from “the blue horizon between heaven and earth.” How much can she do to help them? What is necessary for her to attain her final rest in heaven? The story develops around such questions, together with the question of justice for her murderer. Running time: 135 min.

Flashbacks to the murder, and other scenes, are suspenseful and intense, including blood, physical beating, and mild gore. There is a small amount of strong language.

  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, & Peter Jackson, based on novel by Alice Sebold
  • Leads: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon
  • Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
  • Music: Brian Eno


NOTE: Although Before viewing talks don't have spoilers, comments below MAY have spoilers
(spoilers are allowed in comments when a Before viewing talk does not have a corresponding After viewing talk for discussing the film)

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