DRAMA; 2hr 15min
STARRING: Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci
Guardian angel: Ronan
In 1973, 14-year-old schoolgirl Susie Salmon (Atonement ’s Ronan) is murdered. “It’s strange the memories you keep,” her plaintive voice-over observes. Susie doesn’t just keep memories: while dealing with her own turmoil, she keeps watch over her loved ones from (just) beyond the proverbial grave. Unlike Alice Sebold’s intense, evocative 2002 novel, director Peter Jackson spares the graphic details of Susie’s killing — he has copped a pasting for downplaying, although Tucci, who does Susie in, is creepy enough all by himself.
Jackson’s rendering of Susie’s afterlife is a glorious dreamscape with a haunted undertow; if the unquiet dead really do watch over the living, this is a perfect Technicolor vantage point. Meanwhile, hobbled by grief, her parents (Weisz and Wahlberg) and sibs limp along. Always an alchemist, Jackson turns their tragedy into magic realism, layering light and dark in a fairytale about learning to let go. Ronan is a treasure throughout — too ethereal to be quite of this world while too young to be forced to leave it.