Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
100 Greatest Videos Games Of All Time
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Empire Visits The Hobbit's VFX Team
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
4Music's Size Does Matter
Introducing your new favourite app
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
Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar
3 Star Empire Rating
Life Of Crime
3 Star Empire Rating
Internet's Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz, The
4 Star Empire Rating
A Walk Among The Tombstones
4 Star Empire Rating
Wish I Was Here
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating
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

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

RE: The Lovely Bores

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 a point about how bad the ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 08:55, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

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 a point about how bad the film is, then at ... More

Posted by The Todge at 02:15, 12 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

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. Yes it was a book,but so was LOTR,without getting into what was in the book or what wasn't-this is a film. And it is completely awful. It would put Adam Sandler to shame. ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 23:53, 11 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

L: BOHEMIANBOB Sorry,but this is awful-what was Jackson thinking?? Yes it's adapted from the book,but it completely loses the plot and misses the point. There is no emotional involvement with any of the characters despite the heavy plotline. They vary from wafer thin to the ridiculous.It is completely the fault of Jackson to squander the acting talents available here. As for the imagery,again,overloading us with visual nonsense that matched the mess of the writing. A grade a tur... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 23:44, 11 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

Sorry,but this is awful-what was Jackson thinking?? Yes it's adapted from the book,but it completely loses the plot and misses the point. There is no emotional involvement with any of the characters despite the heavy plotline. They vary from wafer thin to the ridiculous.It is completely the fault of Jackson to squander the acting talents available here. As for the imagery,again,overloading us with visual nonsense that matched the mess of the writing. A grade a turkey. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 16:14, 11 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bores

It's not a bad movie, just that it's crying out to be a much better one. Peter Jackson got a bit too disrtacted with the "in betweem" imagery that he didn't leave enough time to fully flesh out the characters. which is a shame because with the level of acting provided the story didnt' need all that CGI to propel it along.   and I know it's missing the point, but how does somebody make an under ground room without anybody noticing, and how did he move the safe? ... More

Posted by blackduck at 13:49, 11 October 2010 | Report This Post


The Lovely Bores

This has properly divided opinion. Yes, there are some daft bits - the safe getting from the cellar to the car so easily, but phew what an effort to get it in the sink hole! Why not drive a little closer? Anyhoo, the music is absolutely fantastic, to use Cocteau Twins and Lizz Frazier from This Mortal Coil was genius. Also I really liked the acid trip "In Between" images which I'm guessing was the deal breaker for Jackson. It was way too long, hence the Lovely Bores. Lets keep our fing... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MyPOV at 14:39, 16 July 2010 | Report This Post


Appalling

Empire magazine's review of The Lovely Bones is almost (although not quite) as off the mark as Dan Jolin's now infamous review of Liam Neeson's Taken. Don't be misled. The Lovely Bones is a cringeworthy, confused and appalling mess. Avoid. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Flamer Anonymous at 18:29, 16 June 2010 | Report This Post


Emotional But Disappointing.

Okay, I haven't read the book before seeing The Lovely Bones but I'm sure there is plenty of others that are the same. Good pefomances from a great cast especially Mark Walhberg, Rachel Weiz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci and Saorise Ronan. Beautiful and breath-taking scenery. Some gripping and emotional moments. But I didn't enjoy this film at all, in fact it made me angry of how it was left. I'm not going to spoil it to anyone who hasn't seen it but I was screaming at the screen during certain... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 10:09, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


Emotional But Disappointing.

Okay, I haven't read the book before seeing The Lovely Bones but I'm sure there is plenty of others that are the same. Good pefomances from a great cast especially Mark Walhberg, Rachel Weiz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci and Saorise Ronan. Beautiful and breath-taking scenery. Some gripping and emotional moments. But I didn't enjoy this film at all, in fact it made me angry of how it was left. I'm not going to spoil it to anyone who hasn't seen it but I was screaming at the screen during certain... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 10:09, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


Even the Title Blows When Explained.

All I can say is that this had some of the stupidest moments in movie history and I have to share them to get them of my chest. Why make the mother return at the moment the evidence is found and why would the daughter hold off on giving the evidence to her father immediately? Why does the Lindsay, the younger sister, keep looking through the book when she has just heard the killer return. Why would Suzie take a kiss instead of stopping the serial killer, thereby freeing him to kill again and ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Darfaultner at 16:29, 05 June 2010 | Report This Post


The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones is an excruciatingly bad film. The vision of the afterlife is tacky and flashy and at times looks like middle earth. Susan Sarandon's comic iterlude cringe worthey and Stanley Tucci isnt at all convincing. Saoirse Ronan is a fine young actress but she needs to pick her roles more carefully. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Soprano168 at 20:05, 13 May 2010 | Report This Post


The Lovely Bones is a beautiful work of art, as simple as that. It is certainly the most courageous film of 2009, and is amazingly rewarding as a result. Its writing, from the team that brought us The Lord of the Rings nine years ago (has it really been that long?!), tackles themes, motifs and allusions that will leave you thinking, debating and possibly even crying. It has been ages since I have seen a film which grips and relates with its audience in the scope that this one does. Peter Jackso... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 18:57, 30 April 2010 | Report This Post


Jacksons best since rings trilogy.

Peter Jacksons film the lovely bones is perfect in every aspect of film-making. Challenging story. Marvellous script. Unique cinematography. Incredible performances. Brilliant directing. Mesmerizing special effects. Sublime music. An incredible film that was largely over looked. Especially by the academy. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BenIsMovieKing at 04:20, 27 March 2010 | Report This Post


Jacksons best since rings trilogy.

Peter Jacksons film the lovely bones is perfect in every aspect of film-making. Challenging story. Marvellous script. Unique cinematography. Incredible performances. Brilliant directing. Mesmerizing special effects. Sublime music. An incredible film that was largely over looked. Especially by the academy. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BenIsMovieKing at 04:20, 27 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Killing Edward: The Thread

In some ways it could have done with a more childhood nightmare view of the killer, I have no idea how present that is in the book but he fear could have been visualized more. ... More

Posted by genejoke at 07:38, 25 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Killing Edward: The Thread

personally i liked it, yes the scnes of Suzies personal heaven were maybe a bit over the top and filled with pointless speacial effects, btu this is something not fully described in the novel, but an important location none the less and something that needed to be seen, and as other posters have pointed out from the imagination of a 14 year old girl, so it works in this aspect. As for the rest of the film I was pleasantly suprised that it remained fairly faithful to the book, although felt that... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Operaghost at 14:20, 24 March 2010 | Report This Post


Killing Edward: The Thread

... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 01:48, 21 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: time out people

I thought this was a very good movie. All the actors did a great job. But I was a little disappointed that they didn't catch Harvey or recover Susie's body ... More

Posted by white mage at 00:04, 21 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: time out people

L: Edward Nygma Mah I don't really hate the film, I just think that objectively it's...a bad film all around. So cheesy and clumsy in its approach to the story. My opinion. felt it was supposed to be a bit cheesy, a young girls overly romantic take on events. Still if you didn't buy into it that's cool. we can't all agree. ... More

Posted by genejoke at 13:19, 19 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bones

*Out of despair, Edward falls off his chair into a coffin-sized hole* ... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 01:15, 19 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Lovely Bones

good movie ... More

Posted by sarkark21 at 06:18, 18 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Balanced out the average - ha ha

i hav to say that the young lady who played susie's sister was excellent in this film an realy grew into her character further into the film ... More

Posted by babysham at 19:43, 17 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: time out people

Mah I don't really hate the film, I just think that objectively it's...a bad film all around. So cheesy and clumsy in its approach to the story. My opinion. ... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 11:13, 17 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: time out people

L: Edward Nygma L: plum bob ok so it appears that many of you really hated this film havin read through pages of bad reviews. And I respect all of them apart from the review by 'Edward Nygma'. I'm sorry dude but ur arguement loses all credibility whn you complain the film has the line "susie salmon, like the fish" which is taken directly from the book u fool! Know the facts before you judge!! Anyway my opinion, this is very much a flawed and uneven film. I personally didn't thi... More

Posted by genejoke at 17:36, 16 March 2010 | Report This Post


Previous pageMore 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
Rogues Gallery: Powers Boothe
Sin City's Roark talks us through his most memorable baddies

Richard Attenborough: In Celebration
Saluting a man who made a lasting impact on cinema and beyond…

Exclusive: Luc Besson Talks Lucy
'There is no bullshit with Scarlett Johansson'

Video: Daniel Radcliffe Talks What If...
On Gordon Ramsay, swearing and date movies

The 24 Best Film-Related Ice Bucket Challenges
The viral craze that won’t quit takes in some of Hollywood’s finest

Who Shot First? The Complete List Of Star Wars Changes
An exhaustive chronology of George Lucas' post-release tinkering

Film Studies 101: A Film Buff's Guide To Movie Movements
Everything you need to know about cinema's key groups

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

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)