“They say in heaven love comes first/ We’ll make heaven a place on Earth.”
First adaptations of books. Then adaptations of computer games, theme park rides, adverts, trailers. Now, Peter ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Jackson has taken on the work of the late, great Belinda Carlsle.
Of course he hasn’t you silly sausages, instead it’s the latest literary adaptation to hit the screens based on the wonderful best-seller, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Prepare for your tears to be well and truly jerked.
When 14-year old Susie Salmon is murdered by her neighbour we follow her beyond the grave. She resides in the “in-between”, wrestling with letting go off the life she had and enjoying her other-worldly freedom with new friend Holly Golightly. On Earth her family crumbles as they try to cope with the grief of losing their Susie.
Only a hat-full of directors have tried to recreate the afterlife on celluloid and the end result veers from the sublime, A Matter Of Life and Death, to the god-awful, What Dreams May Come. If any of today’s modern film-makers are going to pull it off, however, it’s Pete.
And boy does he pull it off. Backed by an incredible performance from the young Saiorise Ronan, The Lovely Bones is that kind of film that never tries too hard to please. Instead it takes you by the hand and gently leads you through horrific moments and happy ones, creepy places and magical ones, all the way through to the end where it places you down, thankful that you took the journey.
Epitomising this idea of ‘never trying too hard to please’ are the effects themselves. As outlandish as they are, they’re never effects for effects sake. Witness the ships in bottles smashing on the shore of Susie’s heaven, encapsulating how her need for revenge keeps her family from healing. Or the terror room of Mr. Harvey taking a bath, a pure depiction of hell.
Back on Earth it’s the little touches that place The Lovely Bones in near-masterpiece territory. Jackson shows the result of almost 20 years of marriage (taking a passage from the middle of the tome and placing it in the first 5 minutes) as a pile of Philosophy books and a passionate fumble under the sheets is replaced by books on Housekeeping and a kiss goodnight. Up‘s montage may win points for showing an entire life, this one manages to be a caustic look on the sacrifice of family life in a little over four seconds.
The exquisite final line of dialogue may not have the impact of reducing you to baby tears in the same way the book does, but if you leave with completely dry eyes, start worrying whether there’s a place for you in the afterlife.
When Owen Nicholls is not listening to Belinda Carlisle he edits and writes for www.thisfilmison.com.