Charlie St. Cloud
Zac Efron proved that there was more to him than the pretty Disney-approved star of the High School Musical series with his solid performance in the recent Me And Orson Welles and his deft comic touch in 17 Again. In this new supernatural themed romantic drama where he plays a brooding young man haunted by his own personal ghosts, Efron again proves that he is quite a capable actor when given strong material.
Efron plays the titular character, an academically gifted student and keen sailor who wins a sailing scholarship to Stanton. But he throws it all away following a car accident that kills his younger brother and leaves him psychologically scarred. Charlie retreats from the world and takes up a solitary position as a caretaker in the local cemetery where his brother is buried. Charlie thinks he can hide away and bury his pain in solitude. And every night at sunset he meets up with the spirit of his dead brother (Charlie Tahan) to practice baseball and talk about his life.
But then Tess (Amanda Crew) a former school friend who is preparing to compete in a round the world yacht race sails back into his life. Is her presence enough to shake Charlie out of his self-imposed funk and get him to reconnect with the real world?
Based on the novel written by Ben Sherwood, Charlie St Cloud deals with themes of death, grief, guilt, redemption, second chances, taking chances, and living life to its fullest. It also shares a number of supernatural thematic elements with other films like Ghost, What Dreams May Come, and even The Sixth Sense, as our hero here also sees dead people. The lines between reality and fantasy become increasingly blurred for Charlie.
This tearjerker packs a solid emotional punch, but director Burt Speers, who also directed Efron in the tweenie 17 Again, ensures that the material doesn’t become overly mawkish or sentimental. While Efron is adept and delivers a mature and suitably brooding performance as the emotionally pent-up hero, young Tahan grounds the film with a polished performance as his younger brother. And Crew is also excellent. Ray Liotta and Kim Basinger are basically wasted and given little to do in thankless roles as, respectively, the deeply religious paramedic who saves Charlie’s life, and Charlie’s mother.
Charlie St Cloud was shot on location in Vancouver, and Enrique Chediak’s gorgeous wide screen cinematography captures the picturesque locations that enrich the film. However, the camera also loves Efron, and there are plenty of close-ups of his chiselled features, piercing blue eyes and shirtless body that will have his teenage fans scream with delight.