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Darren sees a lot to like in THE LOVELY BONES

Along with Guillermo del Toro and Terry Gilliam, Peter Jackson is one of the few modern directors who possesses the imagination to create fantasy worlds audiences have never seen before. The once lost world of epic fantasy is now resurrected thanks to Jackson's wondrous visions in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the King Kong remake. Jackson though was once a director who relished the chance to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. Before he was A-list he did this in an earth-shattering style with Heavenly Creatures. Intertwining the lines between reality and fantasy is something he once again does with great aplomb and emotional intent in the Lovely Bones. Adapted from Alice Sebold's 2002 novel, the film follows the tragic plight of a young girl called Suzie Salmon (a suitably vulnerable) whose life is cut short by a cold hearted child snatcher in seventies suburbia. From her uncertain position in a shape-shifting limbo, Suzie confronts the maelstrom of emotions that arise from her turmoil. Emotions that she was blissfully unaware of in life arise in death as, from beyond the grave, she watches her shattered family struggle to come to terms with her absence. Faced with such grief, will Suzie Salmon ever find peace in the afterlife? Few subjects are as taboo as child murder but Peter Jackson's handling of quite shocking subject matter is delicately done. The unsettlingly vicious crime is no less troubling for happening off screen; the slow burn sense of menace as you realize just how much premeditated intent drives the demented psyche of her would be killer, is deeply upsetting to even those people who don't spend everyday hoping that the heinous crime ending Suzie's life, doesn't befall their own children. Suzie is not some salacious teen in a slasher film; she's a doe-eyed lamb and as she's naively lured to her slaughter, it's hard to watch. Tensions are somewhat eased when we see the beautiful vision of the 'inbetween' world Jackson has painted for her. Presumably inspired by the sublime landscapes of his native New Zealand, Suzie finds herself in an organic and picturesque wonderland featuring luscious landscapes defined by her ever changing moods. Perhaps the heavenly vision will be too saturated in saccharine for some people's tastes, but for others, Jackson's imagery will genuinely take their breath away and comfort. The afterlife here is complied of the kind of romantically dreamy natural settings that you can imagine a young girl desiring to be her personal heaven, so considering this, the vision satisfies. A dark cloud of sadness engulfs Suzie's family as the innocence they once had begins to wilt in the wake of her death. A fascinating narrative unfolds as Suzie watches on, powerless to comfort her family who are forever changed by their loss. She wants to guide her traumatized father to track down her killer, but she is now a passive observer rather than a direct influence on what was once her world. This is a much darker and adult themed film than has been suggested. Sure, it's told through the eyes and words of a young girl which at times does give it a strong feeling of mawkishness. And in the unlikely event of Disney doing a psychological thriller, it may look and feel something like The Lovely Bones. Still, there is an emotional realism to the crippling grief experienced by her family. Mark Wahlberg can often be pretty wooden but he commands sympathy as Suzie's traumatized father, who becomes consumed by the loss of his beloved daughter and channels this into a determination to hunt down her killer. It's his investigation that propels the suspenseful narrative, but you do wonder why nobody suspects the perpetrator sooner given how conspicuous the killer is. Like in David Fincher's Zodiac, we see people whose obsession with the search for justice for a terrible crime, begins to overwhelm them and become their very reason for existing. While Suzie's in paradise, her family go through a living hell - the family grief is poignant and true-to-life. Just when you think the film is going to deliver a powerful climax to satisfy the significant suspense that's built up, it suddenly cops out with a trite and sugary finale for Suzie that will only please young teenage girls. The lame conclusion to her killer's story is equally weak and too convenient to satisfy.

The return of the king of fantasy brings a film that will polarize opinion. Some will feel the picture postcard vision of otherworldly perfection is a little sickly whilst others will be compelled by the blissful visuals. Underneath the surface sheen though, there is a chilling and emotive story that is inventively constructed. The Lovely Bones is a fantasy film that strangely, is both mawkish and macabre and consequently it's a bittersweet experience
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