22 August 2010


I wanted to write about this movie that I watched on the plane to Australia but forgot completely about it until today.

This beautiful but sad movie featured a star-studded cast including Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as the parents, Susan Sarandon as the grandma, Stanley Tucci as the rapist and Saoirse Ronan as the young girl.

Saoirse was Susie Salmon, the 17-yo girl who was reported missing on her way home. Mark and Rachel were her parents Jack and Abigail. Stanley was the freakish paedophile neighbour George who preyed on young girls.

Their acting was absolutely superb. The anguish, despair, desperation etc felt by Abigail was painful to watch. Jack's never give up attitude to find his missing daughter was admirable. George was indescribably scary in his portrayal of the scheming and elusive rapist. And Susie was just so pure and beautiful and her acting was credible. At just 16 yo in real life, I remember seeing her in the movie 'City of Ember' in 2008. She was younger then and is so much prettier and mature now.

Anyway, the story was set in 1973 in Pennyslvannia, a suburb of Philadelphia, when Susie took a shortcut home from school across a corn field and was never seen again. It was later revealed that she was likely raped and murdered when her hat and dismembered elbow was found by the local authorities.

This movie was unusual in that it explored the afterlife and depicted Susie's soul watching the events unfolded and how her family coped with her disappearance. In fact, she was the character that narrated the story throughout the movie. She was not in heaven because of what happened to her. Instead, she was trapped in purgatory for what seemed like eternity. The purgatory was like a fictional place that is left to the imagination with out of this world scenery. It was here where she met the other victims of George, who like her, were trapped in this state.

Anyway, unable to reconcile with her death and loss, her mom Abigail left Jack because it was too painful to live in the house. Jack, on the other hand, relentlessly carried out his own investigations when the police found no clues to her whereabouts. He never gave up and found his neighbour George to be a suspicious character, after the latter was found stalking Susie's young sister. His confrontation with George was futile and allowed him to escape, but not before disposing of the safe in a very deep excavated common refuse dump in the ground, used by all the townsfolk.

George stalked his potential victims, then hatched different ploys to lure the young girls to his lair, which he created from his own sketches, where he raped, murdered and dismembered their bodies before disposing of their bodies. He constructed an underground hideout in a field, with toys etc to lure Susie in, and once inside she knew she could not escape his clutches. He kept her remains in a locked safe in the basement of his house, where he would frequently sit on a chair looking at the safe and reminisced and enjoyed his memories of what he did to Susie. After he returned to Pennsylvannia years later, he tried to chat up another young girl, who rebuffed his advances. Minutes later, he lost his footing by accident and fell down a ravine to his death. From the audience's perspective, that was the best revenge exacted on the serial killer.

To me, there wasn't any closure to Susie's death, because no one ever found her remains or knew what happened to her in 1973. The only person who knew everything was the killer who took everything with him when he died a horrendous death.

The movie ended with Susie's narrative voice whispering "I wish you all a long and happy life." after her young sister gave birth to a newborn girl and a man who found her charm bracelet.