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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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Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows: Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, he lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
<p>Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.
</p><p>His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.
</p><p>Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.</p> American Catholic Blog Life is not always happy, but our connections to others can create a simple and grace-filled quiet celebration of our own and others’ lives. These others are the presence of Christ in our lives.


 
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