Susie Salmon (played by Saoirse Ronan) is fourteen and is growing up in small town Pennsylvania. She is having all the typical teenage first-time experiences of school, first love and family. On her way home from school one day she is viciously murdered by her neighbor George Harvey (by Stanley Tucci), whose ordinary appearance and demeanour disguises a frighteningly cruel man. As her family struggles to make sense of their sudden loss, the trauma causes them to drift apart. Susie enters an “afterlife”, which at first is confusing for her and she finds settling-in quite difficult. From this place, Susie looks down on her traumatised family and watches as her mother (by Rachel Weisz) leaves the family and her father (by Mark Wahlberg) slowly goes to pieces. Grandma Lynn (by Susan Sarandon) soon arrives to help care for the fracturing family. Susie then realises that Mr. Harvey is so bouyed by the confidence that he’s got away with her murder that he has started to focus on his next victim, her younger sister Lindsey (by Rose McIver) whose jogging route happens to lead her regularly past his home ….
This movie is a dramatisation of the novel “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold. It is well directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson, who brought us the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “King Kong”. There is clear evidence of his work here in the animation sequences that depict Susie’s afterlife – it is not overdone though. I liked the movie, the integration of special effects and real life is well done and the entire movie is very well made. It is not overly fanciful or sentimental. For me, the real gem in the movie is Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of the chillingly frightening Mr Harvey. Other characters’ performances are also excellent – Mark Wahlberg and Susan Sarandon particularly. I was reminded of this movie when I recently saw “Hanna” because Saoirse Ronan is so good and she clearly has a great acting future ahead of her.