8: the bones of love


I watched The Lovely Bones for the second time at Al Ghurair Centre yesterday.  I watched the movie in a pirated dvd I got from my hacker/dealer/alcoholist a month back even before its worldwide release and found it excruciatingly lovely visually, narratively and figuratively.  Watching it for the second time, in the silver screen, was even more enchanting.  The agony of its almost two hour run is magnificently excruciating.  Almost like sadomasochism.  It was worth every whippy pang!

I had to watch it again.

Besides, I can’t get enough of Saoirse Ronan!  I loved her since Atonement, to which I told friends, “Move over, Dakota Fanning!”  and have seen her other films after that like City of Ember, Death Defying Acts and I Could Never Be Your Woman.  Her name is pronounced as Sor-zsa, by the way.  And in Ireland, where is from, it means FREEDOM.

Basically, The Lovely Bones talks about a young girl who has been murdered in the early 70s and watches over her family – and her killer – from heaven.  Or at least her own version of heaven as manicured by director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and King Kong) and author Alice Sebold which was a heaven full of 3D handiwork and loads of colorful imagery.  Susie Salmon, played by prodigy Saoirse Ronan,  must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.  And that’s where the movie, in all its delicous sinewy twists, really becomes engaging.  It becomes a battle of hatred and acceptance.  An emotionally charged war between life and death.  And immortality.  And moving on.

It is a stupendous work of cinematic saturation.

* Susie Salmon (Ronan), a 14-year-old girl loved taking photographs.   One day, Ray Singh, a boy Susie has had a crush on, approaches her at her locker and slips a note into her textbook. He asks her out for the following Saturday and attempts to kiss her, but they are interrupted by Ruth Conners  being scolded by a teacher.

As Susie is walking home from school, she runs into her neighbor, George Harvey (played by the chameleon actor StanleyTucci who is soooooo brilliant here), who coaxes her into seeing an underground den he says he has built for the neighborhood children. Susie eventually becomes uncomfortable in Harvey’s presence and tries to leave; when he restrains her, she kicks him in the face and runs out of the den back into the field, passing Ruth along the way. Meanwhile, the Salmon family begins to worry that Susie hasn’t returned home yet, and her father, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), leaves into town to go look for her. Susie makes it into town and sees her father, but he does not notice her. Susie instead runs home, but discovers the house empty. She enters the upstairs bathroom to find Harvey soaking in a bathtub. After discovering her charm bracelet hanging on the sink faucet, near a bloody shaving razor, Susie realizes that she never escaped the den and was instead raped and murdered by Harvey. As she screams in horror, she is pulled away into a surreal world that is neither heaven nor earth, but “the in-between”, where she continues to watch over her loved ones. She can not seem to let her life and family go despite her new friend from the afterlife, Holly, urging her to move on.

Police are called in to investigate Susie’s disappearance the following morning. Detective Len Fenerman finds Susie’s hat with traces of her blood on it and confirms that Susie has most likely been killed. In response, Jack develops all of Susie’s pictures, and soon begins to obsessively research various neighbors, including Harvey, through their tax records. Fenerman interviews Harvey, but cannot find any evidence to pin him as a suspect. Lindsey comes to agree with her father on his suspicions, but their casework stresses Susie’s mother, Abigail (played by Rachel Weisz who is playing an American once again and doing it very well.  I sometimes think that she is more American than most American actresses when in fact, she is English), to the point where her mother, Lynn (played by Susan Sarandon who is not only funny in this movie but well-photographed as well), moves into their home to look after the family. Stricken with grief and alienated from her husband, Abigail eventually leaves the family for California.  In her afterlife, Susie decides to inspect a lighthouse that has been beaconing her to enter. Once there, she learns about Harvey’s other victims, which include Holly, and that he is keeping Susie’s body in a safe in his basement.

One night, Jack follows Harvey with a baseball bat into the cornfield seeking revenge upon him. However, Jack accidentally stumbles across Clarissa , a friend of Susie’s, with her boyfriend Brian, who beats Jack unconscious. Jack is then hospitalized, which prompts Lindsey to continue his investigation. During a track run for school, Lindsey breaks into Harvey’s house looking for evidence. She discovers a notebook hidden underneath his bedroom floorboard containing a sketch of the clubhouse and a piece of Susie’s hair. Harvey returns home and catches Lindsey in his house, but she escapes and runs back home to discover that Abigail has returned. In fear of being caught, Harvey flees Norristown, taking with him the safe containing Susie’s body.

Susie’s realm of afterlife begins to expand into a larger HEAVEN and she is greeted by Harvey’s other victims. Holly asks Susie to enter it with them, but Susie declines, saying she has one more thing left to do. Meanwhile, Ruth and Ray are present at the sinkhole when Harvey drives up to dispose of the safe. Susie returns to Earth and enters Ruth’s body, causing her to collapse. Ray rushes to Ruth’s aid only to discover she has become Susie. They share a kiss, completing Susie’s last wish, and she returns to heaven.

Sometime later, during the winter, Harvey meets a young woman outside a diner and attempts to coax her into his car, but she rebuffs him. Suddenly, a large icicle falls from an overhead branch and hits Harvey on the shoulder, causing him to fall backward over a cliff and into a ravine, killing him. Susie sees that Lindsey and her boyfriend Samuel Heckler are married and expecting a child, that her mother is now able to go into her room, and that her family is healing.

In the final narration of Susie, these immortal words were uttered that made me both fragile and young again.  It is a film that will remind you of how precious your  life is and how much everyone of us must cling to it. No matter what.

And I will say this again:  You feel alone because you closed the door. So, don’t.  Open it.

Open it.

“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous lifeless body had been my life.”

–   Susie Salmon, The Lovely Bones

If you have not seen The Lovely Bones yet, watch it. You will have a momentary rebirth right after you step out of the theatre.  I did.

* with the help of Wikipedia.

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