In nature, salmon travel upstream, challenging the order of things through an arduous journey against the natural flow of life. In a way, this is also the momentum of Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. The characters of The Lovely Bones are constantly creating, esoterically attempting their escapes upstream. They are attempting to escape from the forward moments of time, the eventuality of losing those moments that constantly pass us by.
Susie Salmon is just 14 years old in the year 1973, the year she is murdered. Rather than move on in her afterlife, Susie stays put, indirectly haunting her mother, father, and sister as they mourn her death. Hoping that her killer willl be caught, Susie watches from the Wonderland like Purgatory of her creation as her family unravels, and her killer roams free.
Having not read the book by Alice Sebold on which the film is based, I have no basis for comparison. I can however ascertain by the films lack of consistent depth, and over-saturation of imagery, that Jackson's adaptation is more keen on colorful effects than it is on colorful characters. The setup works well, and our introductions to Susie, her family, and her killer start us off with a sense of their complexities as characters. The ways in which these characters create provides insight into their deeper functionality as people. Susie's father (played by Mark Wahlberg) builds ships in bottles, an obvious allusion to the emotions he bottles up before his inevitable and literal breaking point. Susie's killer (Stanley Tucci) builds large dollhouses over which he looms like a giant, seemingly in control of a world of his own creation. Before her death, Susie herself takes hundreds of photographs of everything in her life, trying desperately to both preserve and discover her reality simultaneously.
Once Susie dies, she watches on from beyond, choosing to continue her worldly observations rather than move on like nature dictates. Here too, the film seems to also refuse to move on, losing its identity somewhere between the 1998 film What Dreams May Come and an episode of Law & Order. The depth promised in the first act is suppressed by Jackson's growing over-reliance on special effects driven storytelling. Unlike his 1994 Heavenly Creatures, The Lovely Bones fails to identify its purpose, ultimately giving up and moving back downstream with other forgettable films that pass into obscurity.
The Movie MacGuffin is Tony Nunes