The Lovely Bones is a 2009 American supernatural drama film directed by Peter Jackson. It is a film adaptation of the award-winning and best-selling 2002 novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon, alongside Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as Susie’s parents Jack and Abigail Salmon. The film also stars Susan Sarandon, Amanda Michalka and Stanley Tucci. The film received various accolades, including a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations.
Jackson and his producer partners acquired the rights independently and developed a script on their own, later selling it to DreamWorks. Principal photography began in October 2007 in New Zealand and Pennsylvania, United States. After DreamWorks left the project, Paramount became the film’s sole distributor. The film’s trailer was released on August 4, 2009, and clips from the movie were shown in July 2009.
The Lovely Bones was first released on December 26, 2009 in New Zealand, and then internationally in January 2010. The film’s North American release date was changed multiple times, with a limited release on December 11, 2009, and a wider release on January 15, 2010. It was released to mainly mixed reviews from critics; the story and its message were generally criticized, with praise mainly aimed at the acting, particularly of Ronan and Tucci. In the film’s opening weekend, in limited release, it grossed $116,616 despite only having been screened in three theaters, placing it at 30th place on the box office chart. As of February 28, 2010, The Lovely Bones had grossed over $44,000,000 in North America.
In 1973, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old girl living in Pennsylvania with her parents, sister, and brother, dreams about becoming a photographer some day. One day, Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie), a boy Susie has a crush on, approaches her at her locker and slips a note into her textbook. He asks her out for the following Saturday. As Susie walks home through a cornfield, she runs into her neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who coaxes her into his underground den. Inside, Susie becomes uncomfortable in Harvey’s presence and attempts to leave; when he grabs her, she elbows him in the face and runs into the field and onto the street, rushing past classmate Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando).
Meanwhile, the Salmon family becomes worried that Susie failed to return. Her father, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), leaves to search for her, while her mother, Abigail (Rachel Weisz), waits for the police. In town, Susie sees her father, but he does not respond to her calls. Susie then runs home to find Harvey soaking in a bathtub. After seeing her charm bracelet hanging on the sink faucet near a bloody shaving razor, Susie realizes that she never escaped the den and was actually murdered by Harvey. Screaming, she is pulled into the “In-Between”, that is neither Heaven nor Earth. From there, Susie watches over her loved ones, unable to let go despite her new afterlife friend, Holly (Nikki SooHoo), urging her to move on.
Investigating Susie’s disappearance with Detective Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli), Jack thinks Susie was murdered by someone she knew. He begins obsessively researching neighbors, including Harvey, who is actually the one who murdered Susie; Jack also comes to think that Harvey is the killer. But Fenerman, after he interviewed Harvey, is unable to find any evidence that would link him as a suspect, as he cleaned up all evidence of his killing her before they arrived. Susie’s sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver), comes to agree with her father’s suspicions, but their casework takes an emotional toll on Abigail, and Jack invites her alcoholic mother, Lynn (Susan Sarandon), to move in with the family. Feeling alienated from her husband, Abigail leaves for California. In her afterlife, Susie inspects a lighthouse and learns that Harvey, who has now targeted Lindsey as his next victim, has murdered six other females, including Holly, and that he stuffed Susie’s body into a safe in his basement.
One night, Jack, carrying a bat, trails Harvey into the cornfield. However, Jack accidentally stumbles across Susie’s friend, Clarissa (Amanda Michalka). Her boyfriend, Brian (Jake Abel), who mistakenly thinks that his girlfriend is being assaulted, nearly beats Jack to death while Harvey watches from a hiding spot. As Jack recuperates, Lindsey breaks into Harvey’s house looking for evidence. Upstairs, she finds a notebook containing a sketch of the den, a lock of Susie’s hair, and news articles about Susie’s disappearance. Harvey returns home but Lindsey manages to escape and runs home to discover that her mother has returned. Not wishing to spoil the happy reunion of her parents, she hides the book from them and instead gives it to her grandmother. Fearful of being caught, Harvey flees, taking the safe with Susie’s remains with him.
The realm in Susie’s afterlife begins expanding into a larger heaven, and she is greeted by Harvey’s other victims. She resists Holly’s urging to enter heaven along with the others, claiming she has one final thing to do. Meanwhile, Ruth and Ray are present when Harvey drives up to dispose of the safe at a sinkhole dump site on the Connors’ property. Susie returns to Earth and enters Ruth’s body, causing Ruth to faint. Ray rushes to Ruth’s aid only to realize she has become Susie. They share a kiss, completing Susie’s last wish, and she returns to Heaven, as Harvey drives away. Meanwhile, the safe is seen tumbling down the sinkhole before disappearing into the muddy water.
Sometime later, Harvey meets a young woman outside a diner and offers her a ride, but she rejects him and leaves. A large icicle falls from an overhead branch, hitting Harvey on the shoulder. He loses his balance on the ice and falls backward over a cliff to his death. Time passes, and Susie sees that her family is healing, which Susie refers to as “the lovely bones” that grew around her absence. As the film concludes, Susie finally enters Heaven, telling the audience: “My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was 14 years old when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. I was here for a moment and then I was gone. I wish you all a long and happy life.”
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First Published: Mar 5, 2012 – Re-Published: Apr 16, 2013