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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Lovely Bones

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Saoirse Ronan stars in a scene from the movie "The Lovely Bones."
Although intriguing for a number of reasons, not least its affirmation of an afterlife, the screen version of Alice Sebold's best-selling 2002 novel "The Lovely Bones" (Paramount)—primarily a somber drama centering on the murder of a child in suburban Pennsylvania in the early 1970s—eventually becomes scattershot as it attempts to blend disparate genres.

Narrating events from beyond the grave, and recounting the crime perpetrated against her by neighborhood psychopath and loner George Harvey (a squirm-provoking Stanley Tucci) is once-ebullient 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan). While the lead-up to Susie's fatal encounter with Harvey is unsettling, and strongly suggests a sexual motive, viewers are spared all but the gruesome aftermath as the killer bathes away the abundant, telltale blood.

Since her death, Susie's unresolved rage and desire for revenge have left her trapped in a picturesque purgatory that the script—penned by director Peter Jackson with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens—refers to as "the In-Between."

Also preventing Susie's progress to the higher reaches of this visually rich, though theologically vague Elysium is her ongoing attachment to the family she left behind. Thus she watches helplessly as her devastated father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) becomes obsessed with solving her slaying, thereby obtaining the redress the local police, led by Detective Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli), seem unable to secure.

With the passage of a few years, Susie's sensitive but determined younger sister Lindsey (Rose McIver) joins her father in the hunt, and the scenes of their sporadic pursuit of Harvey—one of them resulting, unexpectedly, in a painfully violent confrontation—pull the film off in the direction of a cat-and-mouse suspense yarn. As encouraged by Susie's distant yearnings, their refusal to let Harvey go unpunished also suggests a morality tale about the limits of human justice and the dangers of fixation.

Unable to cope with her husband's mania, Susie's equally distraught mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz) departs for a stint as a California fruit picker. Abigail's exit opens the way for the appearance of boozy but sensible Grandma Lynn (Susan Sarandon), whose chain-smoking, martini-guzzling and thoroughly inept methods of housekeeping, intended for comic relief, create another distracting shift in tone.

The film contains themes of perversion and crime, gory images, scenes of harsh violence, brief nongraphic marital lovemaking, at least one use of profanity and of the F-word and a few crude and crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

******
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.



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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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