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Deathly silence

A film with a protagonist who is dead but still engaging with living people to wrap up some unfinished business isn’t new.

movie reviews Updated: May 28, 2010 23:33 IST

The lovely bones
Big Home Video/Paramount, Rs 599
Rating: ***

A film with a protagonist who is dead but still engaging with living people to wrap up some unfinished business isn’t new.

Patrick Swayze was more than just an ectoplasmic entity pottering about with his grieving wife (Demi Moore) in Ghost. As for horror films, you don't get dead narrators — it defeats the purpose of shock. But Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones is not a straightforward dead person-reaching out-to-live persons movie or a scare-a-minute flick. It’s a chilling, moving drama where the horror comes not from the dead but from the living. Based on Alice Sebold’s novel of the same name, Jackson’s The Lovely Bones tells the story of Susie Salmon, 14, who after being murdered, tries to come to terms with her own death and the downward spiral of grief and anger her family undergoes. Susie is played by Saoirse Ronan (Briony in Joe Wright’s Atonement) with a believable wide-eyed innocence. Mark Wahlberg plays her father, whose gut-wrenching anxiety that morphs into sorrow is palpable. But the best performance comes from Stanely Tucci, who plays the Salmons’ living-alone neighbour George Harvey, who wheedles Susie into an underground den he has built below a cornfield. Harvey is established as the killer early enough, and his tics and fetishes provide a brilliant portrait of everyday, banal, next-door evil.

Jackson’s depiction of purgatory, where Susie and others are waiting before they go off to ‘heaven’ is a pastelled CGI country, part-Wonderland, part-Lord of the Rings faerieland.

Even though Jackson has remained faithful in this aspect to Sebold’s description, tonally it doesn’t fit well with the rest of the film that is truly harrowing, moving and even within the format of a drama, chilling.