When Susie was small, she was worried for the penguin trapped inside a snow globe. ‘Don’t worry, kiddo,’ her father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) reassured her. ‘He has a nice life; he’s trapped in a perfect world.’ Several years later, Jack could do with someone offering the same reassurance to him about his daughter (Saoirse Ronan) when she is abducted, raped and murdered. This tension between perfect and imperfect worlds runs right through Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, based on the best-selling novel by Alice Sebold.
The Salmon family seems to be perfect. A loving couple with two delightful daughters, living in a nice suburb; what more could they want? Jack even constructs perfect worlds through his hobby of making ships in bottles, which Susie delights to help him with. The biggest tension in the family is whether or not Susie will wear her new knitted hat to school. But the evil desires of one man wreck everything, devastating Susie’s family. Ironically, Susie’s murderer also constructs perfect worlds: he makes dolls houses with obsessive attention to detail. But he also brings the same compulsion to building places where he can lure his victims to their destruction.