I watched this film, adapted from the book, because somewhere along the lines of watching ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, it’d recommended it, so I thought I’d give it a shot when I saw it on the TV Guide the other day. It turns out, that it completely threw my pre-conceptions out of the window because it wasn’t what I expected at all. All I knew was that it was about the tragic death of a young teenage girl. Oh no. The film discusses paedophilia, murder and the fear that can possess a normal town and a normal family; however, it does not do this in the typical way. Strangely, the film is shot in a relatively bright way, rather than a darker filter, which is what you might expect from a film about the murders of children. In this sense, I believe that it makes it all the more horrifying and difficult to watch because it plays on the innocence of children, how they view the world as a pure and wondrous place. It is incredibly painful to watch, particularly towards the climaxing end of the film – some would say it’s harrowing.
But it’s not gore or blood and guts that shock you, it’s the fear. The fear that someone as normal as your neighbour is plotting something as disgusting and terrifying as what the film entails and, I suppose, it also plays on the idea that it could happen to anyone…even you. I would argue that this is all fuelled by the amazing performance of the actors, particularly Saoirse Ronan, who plays the innocent victim, Susie Salmon. The fact that the acting is so believable is clearly important for any kind of film; however, these make you believe that the characters are normal people, they haven’t got super powers, or have ‘greatness thrust upon them’; they’re normal people (regardless of the murderer) who are trying to come to terms with the awful death of their daughter.
It’s perhaps strange that a film concerning average people uses such extravagant special effects to demonstrate the after-life and what Susie Salmon experiences when she dies. I would dare to suggest that this is intended to promote the idea that children have a huge imagination and that their idea of heaven is big and colourful with exaggerations of the real world. Take the model ships in the bottles as a prime example. Susie, after she has died, sees them as huge ships smashing against the rocks in the ocean as her father smashes them against the desk, demonstrating the connection between reality and heaven.
I think that this film is truly amazing in the sense that it really grips the audience and plays with their mind, encouraging them to think about what might be in store for us after life has ended. However, it must be said that this film is gritty and very difficult to watch because of the horrifying events that it concerns. In other words, it’s not something that I would choose to watch casually…if ever again because of the severity of it.