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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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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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