A murder thriller about the search for a killer in the 1970s, as told through the perspective of his 14 year old murder victim. After Susie Salmon is killed, and time fades with the killer uncaught, Susie’s sister and father hang on to their hope and eventually discover the killer was right on their block. But by the time they realize who he is, the killer escapes and finds a new place to live. The film seeks to bring some kind of justice by having the killer, though uncaught, become the victim of an accident that finds him falling from a great height and being smashed by rocks on the way down – the standard satisfaction for killing villains in movies. Ultimate justice in an impersonal universe.
The story wrestles with the devastating effect on a family that such unresolved pain can create. Marriages often break up over these kind of things, and Susie’s parents almost do. The obsession for justice and solution causes the dad to go somewhat crazy in his search for the killer.
Through much of the movie, Susie is portrayed as being in “the in-between” a world of changing dream-like environments of nature, from flowing wheat fields to mountains and lakes. This is a classic ghost story in that Susie cannot go to “her peace” until her murder is solved or until she and her family “let her go.” It faces the reality that “everybody dies,” but posits a universe without personal deity that seems to operate like an impersonal fate, making the best out of bad experiences. Another moment of impersonal fate bringing some justice is when Susie, who was killed before she could ever fulfill her desire to be kissed a first time by true love, finally gets her chance to do so. She finds a “psychically sensitive” girl who is dating the boy that had a crush on Susie and Susie enters that girl’s body. The boy then sees Susie’s face in the inhabited girl and kisses her with a deep love and tenderness. Susie finds that moment of grace that was stolen from her before she could ever do so. But again, this is the wish fulfillment thinking of a godless universe of impersonal fate that somehow operates in a personal way.
Not once in the entire story about death and the afterlife is a personal God even brought up as a question, let alone an answer. He is completely ignored as if no one even believes in Him, even in the 70s. Because of this, I think this movie will not connect with most people.
All the other victims of the killer, (about 7 other women and girls) meet in the in-between and laugh and dance in their unity of victimhood. And ultimately they all go to some kind of “heaven” of bliss at the end. So according to this film, we live in a godless universe where all people go to an eternal “heaven” (not sure about serial killers though), but there is no apparent hell or eternal punishment for the evil.