When I saw the movie poster tag line after seeing Charlie St. Cloud, I chuckled to myself: “Life is for living.” Really? That’s odd because it seems that 75% of this film is centralized on focusing on the past, death and depression. But, I suppose that is the point it is trying to make.
“Charlie St. Cloud” stars teen heartthrob Zac Efron (“High School Musical”, “17 Again”). Mr. Efron plays Charlie, a high school graduate with a sailing scholarship, who struggles with the death of his younger brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan). Prior to Sam’s fatal car crash, Charlie promises Sam that he will practice baseball with him for an hour every day until Charlie leaves for college. At Sam’s funeral, Charlie is met by Sam’s ghost in the woods and agrees to keep his promise.
As the film cuts to five years later, we see Charlie beginning to fall in love with an old high school classmate and fellow sailor champion, Tess (Amanda Crew). As Charlie and Tess’ relationship progresses, Charlie begins showing up late (or not at all) to some practices with Sam, to which Sam states “you’re late, I thought we had a deal.” The film’s main premise at this point becomes whether Charlie should continue to live in the past and keep his promise to his dead brother, or live life, follow love and see where it takes you. Charlie apparently cannot have his cake and eat it too:
Charlie: “The more I’m in your world, the less I can be in his.”
Tess: “You didn’t die in that car crash, Charlie”
Charlie: “Actually…I did”
We assume Charlie means this figuratively, of course, but considering the film’s reoccurring creepiness, it almost makes you wonder for a slight moment if he meant it literally.
Later in the film, Charlie runs into the paramedic, Florio (Ray Liotta), who miraculously saved his life after flat-lining from the aforementioned car crash that killed Sam. Florio states that God has a purpose for Charlie’s life and is giving him a second chance or else he wouldn’t have survived. The film has a much-needed twist, and we discover what this plan is towards the end of the film.
Charlie St. Cloud is not your typical romantic drama in that it involves the supernatural element of interacting with dead people. It has a slightly creepy-factor in that regard, and to crank that up to its full potential, Charlie starts working in the graveyard. However, the film is creatively done and captures Charlie’s emotions as he struggles with losing several of the ones he loved most, not just his brother. Zac Efron pulls off a believable performance and this role tests and shows off his acting capability. At a certain point, you start to feel a whirlwind of emotions for his character and what he must be going through to have experienced such tragic loss at such a young age. “Charlie St. Cloud” will be a hit with the ladies, particularly the high school crowd, in part because it’s a romantic tear-jerker but also because, well, it features Zac Efron… need I say more?
Putting the supernatural aspect aside, “Charlie St. Cloud” feels reminiscent of sitting through a Nicholas Sparks movie which will probably help garner more revenue at the box office. Hmm, this might actually be a resume booster for Mr. Efron and could increase his probability of landing himself as the main male squeeze in a future Nicholas Sparks film. Charlie St. Cloud is certainly a step up from… oh, let’s say “High School Musical.”