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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Charlie St. Cloud

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Zac Efron and Charlie Tahan star in the melancholy "Charlie St. Cloud."
Zac Efron sees dead people in "Charlie St. Cloud" (Universal). Since ticket sales for this drama will likely be driven more by the well-established heartthrob's eyes, it may seem superfluous to point out that director Burr Steers' melancholy parable—adapted from Ben Sherwood's 2004 novel "The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud"—never quite jells.

Efron plays the titular character, a Pacific Northwest high school senior whose skill at racing sailboats has earned him a college scholarship. Though not as well off as his yachting competitors, Charlie has an emotionally rich family life shared with his hardworking mom Claire (Kim Basinger) and younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan).

In fact, their existence is so idyllic, with Charlie devotedly mentoring Sam against the backdrop of the region's natural beauty that you can't help but sense doom lurking around the corner. And it's not long before a brief lapse into irresponsibility on Charlie's part leads to a car accident that claims Sam and almost kills Charlie as well.

Though miraculously revived by paramedic Florio Ferrente (Ray Liotta)—a man of faith who attributes Charlie's return from flatline status to the intercession of St. Jude—Charlie is racked with guilt and grief.

Inconsolable, Charlie flees Sam's burial and runs off to a nearby glade where they used to play catch, only to have Sam suddenly materialize and promise that if Charlie will return to that spot each evening at dusk—a daily appointment they had originally agreed on so Charlie could train Sam for baseball season—Sam will be briefly perceptible to him.

Flash forward five years and Charlie has become the caretaker at the cemetery where Sam's body rests. His reclusive life revolves around his twilight visits with his lost sibling, though he also converses with childhood chums killed in the United States' current wars.

But Charlie's enthrallment with the past is challenged when former high school classmate and fellow sailor Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew) returns to town and swiftly captures his heart, and circumstances eventually force Charlie to choose between his allegiances to the living and the dead.

That the film never fully comes together is mainly the result of the uneasy melding of genres in Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick's script. Is this meant to be an exercise in eeriness, a psychological study or a salute to romance? Efron, who transcends mere stardom to turn in a sensitive portrayal of his isolated, ethereal character, is certainly not at fault, however.

Catholic viewers will welcome the unusually spiritual and even explicitly religious undertones, manifest not only in Florio's fervent belief but in Sam's affirmation of an afterlife of bliss. They will be less pleased with the romanticizing of an encounter during which Charlie and Tess prematurely consummate their potentially life-altering love.

The film contains nongraphic premarital sexual activity, a few instances of sexual humor, at least one use of profanity, a couple of crude terms and crass remarks. The Catholic News Service 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 Catholic News Service.


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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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