This unusual scenario was directed and adapted by Peter Jackson, from Alice Sebold’s best selling novel. The film tells the story of the brutal murder of a 14 year-old girl by a sadistic serial killer from the victim’s point of view. The story gives people who have lost children by murder hope that their beloved child has found peace and happiness on the other side. Undoubtedly, there is an especially happy place in the afterlife for murdered children.
In this case, after Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is killed, she chooses to stay in an halfway world between the physical reality and the permanent afterlife she calls the “The Blue Horizon.” There, amid the beautiful ever-changing landscape, she watches over her parents and siblings. She also helps her father and the police get leads to try to nail the killer.
An unrecognizble Stanley Tucci plays the twisted murderer, George Harvey, who lives across the street from the Salmons. The role could win him an Oscar. He has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.
Irish actress, Saoirse Ronan (with piercing blue eyes) skillfully plays Susie Salmon, who is lured into an underground lair by Harvey. He had set up the trap to entice neighborhood children into what he called a playhouse, equipped with all the neat stuff kids like. Once in his grip, Harvey rapes and murders Susie. The actual murder is shown in rapid flashback. Jackson spared the audience the gory details.
One can only imagine what her parents went through. Rachel Weisz deftly portrays Abigail Salmon, Susie’s mother, and Mark Wahlberg plays her father, Jack. At first, she goes missing one afternoon after school. Then after hours pass and then days, and finally weeks, Susie’s disappearance is like a growing cancer in the family.
Some time later, Homicide Detective, Len Feneman (Michael Imperioli) finds the broken-up underground murder scene which contained a massive amount of blood and piece of Susie’s clothing. He gently breaks the news that Susie is dead and now he is pursuing the case as a homicide. Jack and Abigail fall apart. Jack becomes obsessed with finding a suspect, making Detective Feneman’s job much harder chasing down his false leads.
Meanwhile, Susie meets another of Harvey’s murdered girls in the glowing warm environs of Blue Horizon. She encourages Susie to move on to the next level, but Susie has unfinished business in the physical reality. Her family is disintegrating.
As events unfold, Susie uses her paranormal powers to communicate with her father in subtle ways. He holds a dead rose that comes to life, which is a hint as to who killed her. Susie also finds a budding medium from her school with whom to communicate. Susie can not move on until her family is healed and the killer is either dead or caught.
Jackson opted to expand the role of the murderer from the book which gives the film a macabre creepiness as Harvey sits in a chair in his basement reliving his kills. What’s more frightening, he has been stalking Susie’s younger sister Lindsey, portrayed with spirited verve by Rose Mclver.
As one would expect, Jackson’s creative special effects are spectacular. Susie creates her Blue Horizon landscape by her will. The scenes are shifting from mountains to beaches to fields of green grass or swaying barley. She thinks it, and it is so.
The story expresses hope and joy that Susie and other murdered children are bathed in love and beauty. Like Susie, sometimes spirits have unfinished business in the physical reality and can stay in the halfway world until they are satisfied they have done all they can to help their loved ones on Earth.
The dichotomy between the lurking evil of Harvey and Susie’s beautiful afterlife give the story a strange sadness when one thinks of these evil demons stalking their prey–innocent children–the purest form of physical being on Earth.
The film inspires fear and hope, simultaneously, but it gives comfort to those, like the Salmons, who have had to endure the worst tragedy that could befall a family. People who see this film will not soon forget it.