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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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Conversion of St. Paul: Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior. 
<p>One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. </p><p>From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a). </p><p>Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new. </p><p>So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.</p> American Catholic Blog If you’re confused as to why God would die for you, you either need to rethink your vision of His mercy or of your own worth.

 
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