Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz


Peter Jackson turns his attention from hobbits to homicide in a drama that looks fantastic but, frustratingly, is never as moving as it should be.

Based on Alice Sebold’s 2002 bestseller, The Lovely Bones tells the story of 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Ronan), who is raped and killed by a her creepy neighbour George Harvey (an excellent Stanley Tucci).

Stuck in a strangely beautiful purgatory Susie looks on as her distraught mother (Weisz) and father (Wahlberg) come to terms with her untimely death.

Will they realise the murderer is right under their noses before he strikes again?

With some sublime visual touches, especially in the afterlife, and a number of tense, well-constructed scenes (Susie’s murder is bone-chillingly awful), The Lovely Bones is a reminder of Jackson’s skill as filmmaker.

But while the movie is technically as accomplished as anything the director has done, it lacks the emotional wallop you’d expect from such a harrowing storyline.

It’s as if Jackson spent so much time getting the look of The Lovely Bones right that he forgot to coax convincing performances out of Weisz and Wahlberg as grieving parents.

A fascinating, if flawed, comeback for the Kiwi, then.

Good for: Those who need reminding that you don’t talk to strangers.