Charlie St. Cloud, 2010.
Directed by Burr Steers.
Starring Zac Efron, Amanda Crew, Charlie Tahan and Augustus Prew.
Hours after graduating from High School, Charlie St Cloud (Zac Efron) loses his younger brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan), in a car accident. Five years later Charlie, still grief stricken, visits the ghost of his brother every day, unable to move on with his life. Then he meets Tess (Amanda Crew).
“Hi, my name is Charlie St Cloud, and I see dead people.” Ok, so that’s not exactly what he says, but he might as well.
The film begins by establishing how close brothers Charlie and Sam are; their mutual love of sailing, baseball, and due to their absent father, a very strong relationship. With Charlie set to leave for college on a sailing scholarship, Sam feels as though Charlie will forget about him, so Charlie promises him that every day at sunset they will practice baseball for an hour until he leaves for college.
Before this promise can be fulfilled, Charlie and Sam are involved in a car accident. Although being technically dead for a few moments, Charlie survives, but Sam doesn’t. Unable to move on with his life, Charlie spends the next few years spending every evening practicing baseball with the ghost of his brother. Then he meets a girl called Tess, and he must choose between a loyalty to his brother, or the girl he loves.
Having not read the book by Ben Sherwood that the film is based on, I can’t compare it to the film. I am going to presume though that at least half of the target audience, Zac Efron fans, won’t have read the book either so you won’t fault me for it. While the film apparently follows some of the book faithfully, they differ in the main characters age. For most of the book, Charlie is an older man (about 30 years old), which makes the impact of him still meeting with his brother every day even greater. However in order to keep Efron cast, in the film only five years pass. While five years is a long time to be talking to a ghost, it doesn’t have quite the same effect.
The film has potential, but one that it never reaches. You cannot fault the casting, Efron plays his grief stricken character better than I ever expected and Amanda Crew shone out in her role of sailing enthusiast Tess Carroll and the chemistry between them definitely showed. Charlie Tahan, who played Sam, was funny and enjoyable to watch while able to tug at your heart strings when the moments came.
That being said, something about the film just did not fit, and one major problem with this film for me was the music. I normally really enjoy the original score music that accompanies films, and often it can act like the final wrapping that completes a film, a great scene can be enhanced so much by a perfect piece of music, and films such as Lord of the Rings, Requiem for a Dream, Atonement or Slumdog Millionaire wouldn’t be the same without the amazing music behind them. I have never found a film which had music that felt more out of tone than Charlie St Cloud. Rolfe Kent, the composer, has created music that I absolutely love including the Dexter theme tune, the soundtrack for Up in the Air, The Men Who Stare at Goats and many more. Yet the music for this film felt, for lack of a better word, interfering. At emotional and tense moments in the film the music was loud and obtrusive but in other parts it barely supported the film at all, and I felt as though for the first time in my life, music was ruining a film for me.
Charlie St Cloud does have the potential; the casting, the beautiful scenery and a powerful and emotional story suggests this could be a great film. However the music, the choice in the amount of time passed since the death, and sometimes the editing bring this film down. If you’re a Zac Efron fan you’ll enjoy this, it’s his best film so far, but if you’re not there are a lot of better films worth watching.
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