The Lovely Bones Analysis

10 October 2016

The Lovely Bones, my favorite film for a while now, it took me a while to think of what makes it cinematic. When I thought of the word “cinematic,” I automatically thought of the different elements of literature such as characters, setting, conflict, plot, and so on. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word means “of, relating to, suggestive of, or suitable for motion pictures or the filming of motion pictures. From my understanding, cinematic refers to the play of elements of literature in successive frames of action that make up a scene or multiple scenes. I think being cinematic is not a list of standards or parameters that say whether a film is cinematic or not, but rather the movie in itself and all its details. So, generally, any movie with sense and flow is cinematic in its own way. The movie, The Lovely Bones, takes place in 1973 in Pennsylvania, with a 14-year old Susie Salmon as the protagonist.

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One day, as Susie was walking home from school, she ran into George Harvey, one of her neighbors, at a cornfield. George told her he had a secret “clubhouse”, and was able to lure Susie into this underground room just beneath the cornfield. This is where George Harvey eventually raped and murdered Susie Salmon. The movie revolves around Susie and her family getting through the disappearance of Susie. As Susie dies, she remains in this world of Limbo or “in-between”, where she is able to watch her family and friends deal with the situation.

There are also glimpses of George Harvey’s view of the world that show what he goes through in trying to keep his murders a secret. It’s later realized in the movie that Susie wasn’t George’s first victim, but there were numerous girls prior to her. In the context of the movie, it’s fairly easy to observe the different motifs that are formed as the movie progresses. One motif is the porch light or lantern the Salmon family used. When Susie had not come home, her family left a light on their porch, and kept it on.

Generally, light does represent a source of hope or faith, and it seems like that’s what it plays as in the movie, the family’s hope that Susie will return. The light always stayed on, which showed the family’s utmost effort in trying to get back Susie. In one scene, Jack, Susie’s father, goes out into the cornfield, trying to catch George Harvey, and he uses the porch light to guide him. While in the cornfield, Jack turns off the light for the first time, which serves as this sign that they are done searching for Susie because there is nothing else that can be done.

Jack never catches George, and Susie Salmon doesn’t return home Jack never catches George, and Susie Salmon doesn’t return home. Another motif, similar to the porch lantern in terms of the role it plays, is Susie’s bedroom. There are multiple scenes where family members of Susie just go into her room, stop, and just look around. They stop and just feel Susie all around them. The room itself represented that Susie, somehow, was still there with them. It was this place where Susie wasn’t missing at all.

It served as motivation for the family to continue to look for her; it gave them a glimpse of hope that Susie was still out there and that she needed them very much. A dominant motif throughout the whole movie is the presence and idea of numbers and time. Clocks and the numbers and times on the clocks were depicted all throughout the movie, symbolizing constraint there was for the family. The family had been so focused on simply finding Susie, it was as if they didn’t realize how much time had passed by.

Eight years passes by through the course of the movie, and the family doesn’t realize that time is limited and runs out. Towards the end of the movie, when Jack is in the hospital, a pan to the clock in his hospital room might show that Susie’s time has already run-out. From just one element, it’s easily seen how the film’s story just flows and continues successively. These motifs, along with the other literary elements, are what create the movie and its story. Simply said, The Lovely Bones is a movie with a clear flow of ideas and events and therefore, can be considered as a cinematic movie.

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The Lovely Bones Analysis. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved October 17, 2019, from
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