By Rick Jackson
In Charlie St. Cloud, Sam says to his older brother, Charlie: You can hear me because you're alive."
What resonates throughout the film is the basic concept of living your life in the present positively and understanding how change can affect it. This is the central theme in Guy Pearce's adaptation of the 2004 best selling novel by Ben Sherwood who is also one of the film's producers.
Burr Steers directs each scene with a touch of poignancy and understanding as you watch this simply told tale of the relationship between two brothers unfold, and there is something so down to earth, it is not hard to identify with the two main characters as they continue to bond after Sam is killed in a traffic accident and comes back as a spirit. It is really Charlie whose strong love and devotion for his younger brother is realized and you are empathetic when you see them together again.
The promise Charlie made to Sam to practice baseball every day at sunset is symbolic of their relationship as siblings when the latter was alive. When you think of it more closely, It is really Charlie's strong and positive belief in Sam that keeps Sam's spirit going.
When it is threatened by the appearance of a young girl named Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew), Sam fears for his future because he doesn't yet comprehend how the spiritual world works. His lack of knowledge about it instils in him a common fear of the unknown which translates as a common fear of the ordinary human being which he no longer is.
When Charlie learns of Tess's death, it becomes a test of his own faith and belief in himself to read the signs she has left behind and know what he must do.
Charlie Tahan plays Sam as the epitome of child-like innocence when he was alive and as a spirit he continues he continues to be a reminder of what he was like when he was still human. Sam depends on Charlie to keep him alive.
Zac Efron (Me And Orson Welles) embodies the perfect medium to channel his younger brother's spirit. True to the fantasy element of the film, it works as it sends its message of hope and eternity by capturing the importance of remaining positive throughout one's life.
This is what makes Charlie St. Cloud so special. The life and breadth of living together with a strong heart and soul are essential for anyone whether you are young or old. As it becomes part of your character as you grow up, it helps mould it all into positive energy when you stop believing in yourself and others, especially loved ones, that you are in danger of corrupting your life which you don't want to do. It is this Charlie learns when he is faced with a challenge between Sam and Tess, whom he believes is the girl he wants to spend the rest of his life.
Amanda Crew plays Tess in the same positive and relentless state of happiness which emanates throughout the movie, notably by a simple message written down on a plain piece of paper. It tells Charlie something he has to think about if he is going to see her again or, at least, this is what you are told. It also becomes his one chance to overcome the emotions that have controlled him up t this point, and when he finally understands what the message means, it sends to you watching, a strong and triumphant note of passion dictated by one's faith in believing in someone else with the same strong conviction.
By film's end, you have been far removed from the simple existence of reality and uplifted to a higher level of appreciation of life as a positive force that cannot be shaken unless you fail to believe in yourself as a person who can strongly give and share.
It is your unwavering belief in keeping all the positive energy in your heart so others around you can feel it, like Sam whose spirit remained alive through Charlie.
This is truly a remarkable film in a lacklustre summer movie season. I loved Charlie St. Cloud and Cyrus for their positive messages.
Charlie St. Cloud is rated PG, with the warning: language may offend.
August 8, 2010
Copyright Rick Jackson 2010