Home > Life, Movies, Review, Social Commentary > Reflections on the movie, “Charlie St Cloud”

Reflections on the movie, “Charlie St Cloud”

Reader Ant has asked me to post my thoughts about the movie, “Charlie St Cloud” (which she liked), but tied my hands somewhat by saying that “you have to be nice (because it’s my birthday).” So here goes.

SPOILER ALERT – don’t read this if you’re yet to see the film & you don’t want to laugh loudly during the sad or romantic bits. You might get elbowed in the ribs & spill your popcorn, which would be a waste.

In short, the main character, Charlie (Efron), is devastated by his younger brother’s untimely demise. Minutes before the car accident, the brothers had made a pact of sorts, to meet every day at sunset and practise catching ball in the woods, so that younger brother, Sam (Tahan) can grow up to play serious baseball. Both die in the accident, but Florio, the paramedic (Liotta) brings Charlie back from a flatline. Charlie indefinitely defers the college sailing scholarship to work at the graveyard so that he can keep his promise to his brother. Years later, Charlie encounters the paramedic, who himself is dying of cancer. The paramedic tells Charlie that he was brought back by God for a reason and that he had to find it – the second chance story. Helpfully, this coincides with a damsel-in-distress story with the introduction of sailor-girl, Tess (Crew), who gets herself lost and near-death at sea.

This movie has some lovely moments and the cinematography is great. In all, I think it’ll appeal to teenagers and those looking for the second chance, live-every-moment moral. Zac Efron fans will be beside themselves when he takes his shirt off.

However, older viewers who might see past this (or not) may well be wondering:
(a) the girl’s deceased father mightn’t like what she’s doing in the cemetery with Charlie;
(b) whether it’s too much like cutting and pasting the kid from “Sixth Sense” and the gooey bits from “Ghost”, rolling it together and smoking it; and
(c) if your subconscious can go off by itself without your knowledge or consent and have intercourse with someone in a cemetery and form “a memory, not a dream” (Charlie), dating just got a whole lot more confusing.

To its credit, the movie raised issues of survivor guilt, grief and moving on in a way that is accessible to all viewers. I wouldn’t recommend the film to anyone who’s lost a loved one recently, or been in a major vehicle accident any time in the last few years, for fear of exacerbating post-traumatic stress disorder. I also wouldn’t recommend it for young teens (or tweens).

Will the film smudge your mascara? Depends. That’s the odd thing about this movie. I went with a large group of mothers – and by rights, we all should’ve been passing the Kleenex, but we weren’t – some were, most weren’t. Even I cry in kids movies (“Up” and “Toy Story 3”, most recently), but I was too busy trying to decide what it was that prevented me from suspending my disbelief in this story.

The relationship between Charlie and Rachel was flat until they rolled around in the cemetery – but wait, they didn’t – so he saved her anyway and they went back to being flat but sailing off into the sunset (promising) all because of a little poem by ee cummings about taking risks. Maybe it was some of the corny lines – like the one which should’ve been the most powerful, when Sam was moving from being in-between to moving on (to Heaven) but asked his still living brother whether he promises that they’ll “be brothers forever – you promise?” (because you broke your last promise about meeting me here at sunset and playing ball since you went out looking for that sailor-girl, so I had to think of a promise you could actually keep….)

But hey, if the film makes people Google ee cummings, take up sailing (safely), move on from grief, have a cleansing cry, then it’s okay by me. It pulls at the heartstrings, for some more than others and in all, will probably be loved by more people than reviewers will give it credit for – so go watch it and decide for yourself.

[And happy birthday, Ant!]

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