The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/10/2010

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Frequently tedious, badly written drama that fails to deliver the emotional punch its aiming for, thanks to a painfully obvious central twist that creates more problems than it resolves.

What's it all about?
Directed by Burr Steers, The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud is based on the novel by Ben Sherwood and stars Zac Efron as Charlie, a promising teenager who's just won a sailing scholarship to Stanford and is looking forward to beginning his new life, despite some sadness at leaving behind his mother (Kim Basinger) and his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan). However, when Sam dies in a horrific car accident - during which Charlie technically dies too but is revived by a medic (Ray Liotta) – Charlie gives up his future and stays in town, so that he can fulfil a dying promise to Sam and play catch with his ghost at sunset every evening.

The film then leaps forward five years to find Charlie still visiting Sam every evening and working as a graveyard attendant, where it turns out he can speak to dead people. However, when he begins a romance with former-classmate-turned-sailing-champion Tess (Amanda Crew), Charlie feels torn between his promise to his brother and the chance of something new.

The Bad
The performances are fine – Efron is an extremely likeable screen presence and he generates decent chemistry with both Tahan and the equally appealing Crew (Sex Drive). There's also mildly amusing support from Augustus Prew as Charlie's inexplicably cockney co-worker, though Basinger is completely wasted as Charlie's mother and has less than five minutes of screen time.

The Worse
As a metaphor for grieving and the need to let go, the hideously sentimental central premise just about works, largely thanks to Efron and Tahan's convincing onscreen relationship. However, the plot then sets up a painfully obvious central twist (at least, it will be obvious to anyone who's ever seen a film before), the results of which ultimately stretch the credulity of the audience to breaking point.

As a result, what could have been a soppy but emotionally engaging story about letting go gets eclipsed by an unconvincing fantasy-tinged romance with some equally unconvincing last-reel heroics thrown in, all of which achieves nothing other than showcasing Efron in a tight wet t-shirt.

Worth seeing?
The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud is a poorly conceived, badly written fantasy weepy that, even within its own premise, is ultimately too ridiculous to convince on an emotional level.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 02:49

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