Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman Revealed
The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
Guardians Of The Galaxy Review
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: 6 Issues For £15!
Subscribe today and save 37% off the cover price!
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Susan Sarandon
Rachel Weisz
Saoirse Ronan
Mark Wahlberg.
Directors
Peter Jackson.
Screenwriters
Peter Jackson
Fran Walsh
Philippa Boyens.
Running Time
135 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Moebius
4 Star Empire Rating
All This Mayhem
3 Star Empire Rating
Guardians Of The Galaxy
4 Star Empire Rating
A Promise
1 Star Empire Rating
A Night At The Cinema In 1914
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating

The Lovely Bones
It’s a matter of afterlife and death


submit to reddit


Plot
December 6th 1973, Pennsylvania. Vivacious teenager Susie Salmon (Ronan), fresh with the bloom of new love, is groomed, then murdered by her neighbour George Harvey (Tucci). As Susie’s parents (Wahlberg,Weisz) try to cope with their devastating loss and Harvey tries to cover his tracks, Susie keeps track on and influences their lives from a celestial purgatory.


Review
The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s surprising best seller, is at least five films in one and therefore the perfect film for these credit crunch times. Over its 135 minute running time — it carries this load lightly — Jackson manages to squeeze in a touching teen romance, a gripping portrait of a serial killer, a family falling apart drama, an expressionistic after-life fantasy, a police procedural flick and, in one gripping set-piece, a fantastic retread of Rear Window. Jackson may not keep all these multiple plates spinning successfully, but this is bold, daring original filmmaking, with arguably more emotional and intellectual meat to chew on than either the Rings trilogy or Kong.

The Lovely Bones, both book and film, opens with a close-up image of a snowman trapped in a snow globe. The image reverberates around the entire movie. From Susie Salmon sitting on her heavenly gazebo narrating her own life following her brutal murder, to her father Jack (Wahlberg, good hair) building intricate model ships inside delicate bottles to her mother Abigail (Weisz) keeping Susie’s room in pristine untouched condition to her killer George Harvey (a terrific, meticulous, barely recognisable Tucci) carefully tending to his miniature doll house, these are characters looking to build ideal worlds but who eventually become ensnared by them, unable to move on, tethered by their pain. If this makes Lovely Bones sound like a draining downer, it shouldn’t: it is poignant, gripping, emotionally alive (but never sentimental) and gorgeous. All this from the man who brought you Meet The Feebles.

With its heady teen protagonist and themes of murder intertwined with the fantastical, on paper this felt like Jackson returning to the intimate, small-scale milieu of Heavenly Creatures (the fascination with the afterlife connecting with the real world also touches base with Jackson’s forgotten flick The Frighteners). Eschewing Sebold’s almost comic vision of the afterlife as a kitsch heavenly high school, Jackson’s vision of “the in-between”, a holding pen between Earth and Heaven, is a cornucopia of digitally enhanced vistas, flower iconography, quickly shifting landscapes and startling memorable images: a horrific bathroom vignette, a fleet of ships in bottles bobbing on a sea, a gazebo planted firmly in the middle of a midnight lake with the moon as a clock. Occasionally it strays deep into Rainbow Brite territory but perhaps that’s the point. Accompanied by Brian Eno’s lovely ambient noodlings, this is Jackson seeing and feeling purgatory through a 14 year-old’s subconscious, a 48 year-old man fluent in the language of ‘70s tween dreams.

But the best stuff doesn’t have a single pixel in it, meaning the afterlife segments eventually feel like stop-gaps. A heart-stopping piece of detective work by Susie’s sister Lindsay (Rose McIver who grows in stature throughout the film) is brilliant suspense cinema. The first half an hour is terrific stuff, sketching Susie’s life — all Partridge Family posters, Snoopy pendants and dreams of being a photographer — in the warm, faded tones of a ‘70s photograph. There is a lovely discussion between Susie and her boozy grandmother — Susan Sarandon in comic relief mode — about the thrill of first kisses and Susie’s subsequent crush on English hunk Ray is movingly etched, further enhancing the heartbreak of her life cut short. Saoirse Ronan may be the nemesis of spell check but she is emerging as a Jodie Foster for the noughties, making Susie spirited, smart, intense and adorable.

Sebold purists may carp that Jackson soft peddles the pivotal act of murder but, while he is not graphic, Jackson nails the emotional violence through both Harvey’s quiet insistence and telling images of creepy antique toys. Despite strong performances and moments from Wahlberg and Weisz, the movie doesn’t do full justice to the crumbling relationship of Susie’s parents — it occasionally feels glossed over, hinting at things but never paying them off. If that means there is a Director’s Cut on the way, then all the better. Spending more time in Susie Salmon’s sometimes harrowing, sometimes beautiful, always compelling world is something to rejoice in.


Verdict
Like The Lord Of The Rings, The Lovely Bones does a fantastic job with revered, complex source material. As terrific on terra firma as it is audacious in its astral plane, it is doubtful we’ll see a more imaginative, courageous film in 2010.


Reviewed by Ian Freer

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Lovely Bones
Empire Star Rating

Utter beauty, imagination, and soar.

It was awesome to see so many familiar faces together in one movie, it was like an awkward family reunion. The heaven scenes were amazingly beautiful, like you really were slipping away. My happy place on screen. The music was also very effective, and just lovely. The only thing that lingers is the pace-this could've done better with David Fincher directing- but then again, wouldn't everything? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by YouWillBeUnprepared at 04:05, 22 May 2012 | Report This Post


Trite, Bleak And Oblique

For a film that looks so beautiful and features some excellent performances (most notably on the parts of Ronan and Tucci), it's a real shame that The Lovely Bones has so little to offer beyond its' pretty eye-candy. A darkly-themed supernatural drama of sorts, I'm not sure whether it's the fault of the novel, or the fault of the production staff, but for a film that concerns itself with such a mysterious, abstract topic, there's surprisingly little depth to be found here. A rather straightforwa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 11:18, 14 May 2012 | Report This Post


4 stars??

this was not a four star film but three stars at most. however, becoz its peter jackson, empire is blinded or kissing his butt. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pounamuknight at 04:30, 28 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

Finally got round to reading the book and then watching the film and have to echo the feeling of disappointment felt by a lot of people. So much important stuff was missed out, especially the relevance of the icicle s summed up by my partner saying as we watched it 'how can you read a book like this?' and I replied that it was nothing like the book I had just read. It wasn't The Silence of the Lambs but a very sweet book about how people cope and move on when terrible things happen to them..'th... More

Posted by moehat at 14:33, 13 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: BOHEMIANBOB Hysterical?Moi?Nah,are missing the point of the book,which is the point of the story-it is NOT about Susie. Back to your question about the imagery-in the book there is a huge amount of imagery/symbolism written by Sebold. As books go,it seems fairly decent to me: The porch light represents Susie being away and the hope that one day she will return and it can be turned off,or the family will recover her body,gain closure and then turn it off. The snow globe repre... More

Posted by thetruth at 00:51, 28 September 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Chilling, Sureal and Ambitious storytelling

Finally got around to seeing this tonight. I hadn't read the book but was aware of the storyline and a big fan of everyone involved. LERS AH ]: -Quite unique and thoroughly courageous. -Ronan and Tucci stand out performance wise. Her accent may seem a little too bland at times and Tucci treads a very close line to becoming an over-the-top caricature but both performances are believable and at times brilliant. -Genuinely moving. -Setting is captured well without goi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by st3veebee at 00:37, 28 September 2011 | Report This Post


Chilling, Sureal and Ambitious storytelling

The Lovely Bones is essentially an unrewarding experience, in terms of its plot and expectations. It is at times a little too sureal it becomes confusing and plain weird. Ronan's performance is great, as she takes us through pretty but unecessary landscapes in purgatory it is difficult to understand her role. However the film can be forgiven because of its portrayal of the killer who is pure terrifying and adds to some extremely suspenseful moments. Its a shame because the film starts so well. I... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 23:46, 24 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Balanced out the average - ha ha

A short opinionated review by Ninja: I /i] liked this film (although it's hard not to where Peter Jackson is involved!). I found myself feeling in" storyline from start to finish and I don't know if that was because it was a sad story or because the emotions in the film were so strong and violent but also captured beautifully in the actors. I found the anger and sadness almost addictive! Well worth the watch. haven't read the book yet but after seeing the film I think I will put it on my... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by NinjaShortbread212 at 00:30, 27 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

It was a fucking terrible movie. I'm a fan of PJ but he's spectacularly wide of the mark here. There was one decent scene of tension towards the end but overall I was bored silly. Sooner PJ gets back to Middle Earth the better. ... More

Posted by sephiroth7 at 18:18, 22 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: londonnut L: MuckyMuckMan I haven't read the book so i don't know how faithful the film is to the novel but I would have liked Tucci to have been caught and Susie's remains returned to her family for burial and ultimate closure for her family and ultimately herself. b]Perfectly sums up why the film fails; if you read the book you'll know the family don't need that kind of simple 'closure' because of "the lovely bones" that are formed by the family coming together again afte... More

Posted by pauljthomas at 16:46, 21 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: MuckyMuckMan I haven't read the book so i don't know how faithful the film is to the novel but I would have liked Tucci to have been caught and Susie's remains returned to her family for burial and ultimate closure for her family and ultimately herself. erfectly sums up why the film fails; if you read the book you'll know the family don't need that kind of simple 'closure' because of "the lovely bones" that are formed by the family coming together again after initially falling ... More

Posted by londonnut at 13:37, 23 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

Watched it tonight for the first time, and I agree with both sides of the argument. For me it was a film I both enjoyed and disliked at the same time. Performance wise, Tucci and Ronan were the star players. I can't fault their performances at all. Ronan is a talent to keep an eye on for the future. Plot wise the story doesn't quite flow but all the same kept me intrigued for the full duration. (SPOILERS) As mentioned before, there were a couple of silly bits that left me going 'what the hell' ... More

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 22:14, 20 February 2011 | Report This Post


Disapointed. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ajgr1983 at 21:35, 16 January 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Peter jackson does it again!!!

It was good but i don't thing it deserves 4 stars!! However i loved the cast!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jeevan Singh at 13:59, 04 December 2010 | Report This Post


Fair. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 12:05, 03 November 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

I'm a sentences person,not a paragraphs person! Actually,i don't really like typing,i prefer to be handwritten. Agree with Heavenly Creatures though. ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 10:51, 13 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

Why do you type like that BB? Something against paragraphs?   As for the film - it was fine. Some sweet moments, nice performances, but it really wasn't about anything as such. I don't think even Jackson was pleased by it given how long it took to be releasesd, and how he was during the Oscar campagin.   He pretty much already made this film in the amazing Heavenly Creatures. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 09:44, 13 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

Hysterical?Moi?Nah,are missing the point of the book,which is the point of the story-it is NOT about Susie. Back to your question about the imagery-in the book there is a huge amount of imagery/symbolism written by Sebold. As books go,it seems fairly decent to me: The porch light represents Susie being away and the hope that one day she will return and it can be turned off,or the family will recover her body,gain closure and then turn it off. The snow globe represents Susie to her dad. ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 09:14, 13 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: BOHEMIANBOB Thank God or whoever for some sanity at the end of your post!!!! You are the King or Queen of understatement:"some of the performances are a bit static"ly imagery" CANNOT be adapted from a bbok,this is Jackson's call-like he changed the LOTR books in certain places. It's called artistic license. And to anwer your point,now it wasn't supposed to be a film about paedophilia,it was about a family's struggle to overcome the most terrible situation it can face-but due to Jack... More

Posted by The Todge at 02:34, 13 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB Mr Nygma, I haven't even ventured into the insulting and disgusting world of Mr Jackson where raped and murdered children wander around in "heaven" with ridiculous images. ell given that is what the book was about, what was he supposed to do?  Or maybe you would have preferred the grim reality and we should have had two and a half hours of the camera lingering on ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 01:16, 13 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: BOHEMIANBOB L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB Mr Nygma, I haven't even ventured into the insulting and disgusting world of Mr Jackson where raped and murdered children wander around in "heaven" with ridiculous images. ell given that is what the book was about, what was he supposed to do?  Or maybe you would have preferred the grim reality and we should have had two and a half hours of the camera lingering on her slowly decomp... More

Posted by The Todge at 23:44, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: Edward Nygma He's still right though. Lovely Bones is horrendous. o you guys seriously like it? nnot understand the ridiculous assertion that film is any good on any level. Is it just LOTR fans sticking up for Jackson??? Jackson made Heavenly Creatures,which is the only decent film he's made out of his comfort zone. This is utter tosh! ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 23:35, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB Mr Nygma, I haven't even ventured into the insulting and disgusting world of Mr Jackson where raped and murdered children wander around in "heaven" with ridiculous images. ell given that is what the book was about, what was he supposed to do?  Or maybe you would have preferred the grim reality and we should have had two and a half hours of the camera lingering on her slowly decomposing corpse? If you;... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 23:33, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

He's still right though. Lovely Bones is horrendous. p; Do you guys seriously like it?     ... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 20:15, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: BOHEMIANBOB L: The Todge L: BOHEMIANBOB Mr Nygma, I haven't even ventured into the insulting and disgusting world of Mr Jackson where raped and murdered children wander around in "heaven" with ridiculous images. ell given that is what the book was about, what was he supposed to do?  Or maybe you would have preferred the grim reality and we should have had two and a half hours of the camera lingering on her slowly decomposing corpse? If you;re going to make ... More

Posted by The Todge at 11:57, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


More user comments

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Empire's The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies Covers Are Here
Bard The Bowman or Smaug The Magnificent?

A Pocket Guide To Game Of Thrones’ New Cast Members
Know your Doran Martell from your Nym Sand

Directors Special: Peter Hyams Goes Film-By-Film
The veteran director on Timecop, Outland, 2010, Enemies Closer and more

Explore The Massive Avengers: Age Of Ultron Comic-Con Banner
Use our interactive gadget to zoom in on Hulk, Iron Man, The Vision and co. in action

The 10 Biggest Stories Of Comic-Con 2014
The shocks to emerge from this year's geek-fest. Avengers! Max! Mann!

Models Inc.: The Inside Story Of Sideshow Collectibles
How the likes of Batman, Superman and Luke Skywalker become collectible figures

The Empire Podcast #121: Brett Ratner Talks Hercules On This Week's Show
Plus The Purge: Anarchy producer Jason Blum pops in to talk horror

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)