I was not prepared to like Charlie St Cloud as much as I did. After all, the promos made it look like a typical tear-jerker with supernatural overtones, so I was actually going to skip it. Then something Tony Scott of the New York Times said made me reconsider. Plus, I'm on vacation this week, so I'm attending one movie a day, whether I need it or not. Oddly, I needed Charlie St Cloud but didn't know it.
Teen heartthrob and generally underestimated Zac Efron plays a high school graduate who is planning on leaving a beautiful seaside town for college on a sailing scholarship (how cool is that?) but whose life collapses when his 11-year-old brother dies in a car accident. Charlie can still talk to young Sam, and stays in town so he can play catch with his brother every day. Creepy, yes, but as Buddy Lembeck said in the fourth episode of Charles in Charge, "Man, that guilt's a killer."
Everything is normal, if a bit gothic, in Charlie's world until Tess shows up. She's an old classmate who was his gender opposite equal in the sailing department and is preparing for a solo race around the world. Tess tempts Charlie to leave Sam for about a minute, which shows you just how pathetic Charlie's life is, because Tess is a knockout and she has the coolest boat.
Some stuff then happens, Charlie and Sam reach a kind of closure and some people live happily ever after. I think it's the mood of Charlie St Cloud that drew me in. It's a gorgeous movie, set on Puget Sound with many scenes happening around sunset (indirect lighting is good lighting for actors). I especially liked how the movie just followed Charlie around for a while, letting us get a feel for his constrained and unsustainable life.
The movie is based on a novel and I'll bet the novel is very detailed. I could tell that some minor characters must have had more importance in the source material but that is the nature of adaptations. Efron played his role convincingly and maybe a little understated (that's a big complement from me). Amanda Crew was wonderful as the sailbabe, being genuine and natural and did I mention a knockout? Although the category of Supernatural Romance has been a little crowded in recent years, don't let that wave you off of Charlie St Cloud if you like the genre. This one is a cut above.
Warning: Spoiler Alert for the comments.