The Lovely Bones is a movie that spans multiple genres including supernatural, horror, mystery, and drama. The main character, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), is a fourteen-year-old girl who has been murdered. After being asked out by her crush, she is lured in by a neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who sexually assaults and murders her. She doesn’t realize at first that she is dead, but once she realizes she knows exactly who is to blame. She exists in between Heaven and Earth, watching over her family, waiting for justice, and longing for her crush. While in this in-between, she meets other girls who Harvey murdered and even learns who his next target is.
Despite another girl, Holly (Nikki SooHoo), begging her to move on with her, Susie has unfinished business. She finds a way to inhibit a classmate’s body and kiss her crush just once before she can move on. Meanwhile, her sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver), breaks into Harvey’s house and gathers evidence to prove that he killed her sister. He flees, but before the end of the movie dies a tragic and karmic death, falling off a cliff after being struck by an icicle.
Susie watches over her family and thinks of sees their healing as “the lovely bones” that grew around them. She eventually transitions into heaven where she is at peace saying, “My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was 14 years old when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. I was here for a moment, and then I was gone. I wish you all a long and happy life.”
Let’s break down whether the tragic tale is based on a true story.
The Lovely Bones Is Rooted in a Personal Experience
This movie is very supernatural as it is about a dead girl tying off loose ends before she can cross over, so it surely can’t be based on a true story, right? Wrong. The Lovely Bones is inspired by a true story, and more than one true story too. The novel, The Lovely Bones, is based off of Alice Sebold’s memoir, Lucky, where she tells the story of being sexually assaulted during her freshman year of college. Just like Susie was heading home, Sebold was heading back to her dorm when it happened, but luckily Sebold lived to tell her story and the truth of many other women who weren’t so lucky.
The movie is also based on the assault and murder of a young girl in the 1970s. This girl lived in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and by the hands of a predator was brutally taken from her parents, just like Susie. After she herself experienced sexual assault, Sebold wanted to tell this young girl’s story through the perspective of this young girl who lost her life.
The Lovely Bones Represents Many Stories
The supernatural part of the story was an element added so that this young girl could tell her own story, but The Lovely Bones is a story that is a true for heartbreaking amount of women around the world. Susie was an ordinary girl, doing nothing wrong, and she lost her life brutally and senselessly.
Perhaps another reason the supernatural element was added is to put distance between this film and its inspiration. The creators of the story and film were intentional in not actually showing what happened after Susie followed her neighbor. It almost makes the film all the more chilling because, without the graphic depiction of her torture and murder, the scariest part of the story isn’t even the ghosts, it is the universally true fear, and sometimes reality, for women every day.
This performance by Saoirse Ronan earned her a BAFTA nomination and a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Young Performing securing her career in Hollywood. Ronan she was the same age as Susie when she starred in this emotional role.
The Lovely Bones is available to stream on YouTube and Paramount+.
This story originally appeared on Movieweb