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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 10:30 pm | Fair 53º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Charlie St. Cloud’

The film explores loving relationships before and after death

3 Stars — Intriguing

What happens at the moment of death has always been of great interest to us as mortal beings. In the ancient Egyptian worldview, death was a door to an ongoing existence in which the pharaohs would need ships and provisions for the journey. In the Hindu worldview, death is a moment of transition as the transmigration of the soul occurs and the soul enters into another physical form to continue life in this world. In the Christian worldview, death is the moment in which we transition from this world to an eternal life in God’s presence.

Whatever the view, there are virtually universal questions of what the afterlife will be like, such as: Will there be any continuing interaction with the living? Are there departed souls who don’t quite make the transition and so continue on this Earth in either ghostly or bodily form? And if so, are there people with special senses to see and converse with them? Exploring this popular theme of life after death, Charlie St. Cloud joins such films as The Sixth Sense in suggesting that the answer to these questions is yes.

Based on a novel by Ben Sherwood and directed by Burr Steers, the movie is set in a beautiful seaside town where Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is graduating from Winslow High School.

The older son of a working single mother named Claire (Kim Basinger), Charlie and his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) have been on their own ever since their father went to try out for a Triple-A baseball farm team and never came home. Working together as a team, Charlie and Sam even prove to be expert sailors by winning their town’s coveted sailing competition.

But tragedy strikes. We won’t spoil how it happens, but death comes and the deeply dependent relationship between Charlie and Sam continues after death. This sets the stage for an even more interesting event in which love finds a way into both of their lives.

As a troubled grieving person, Charlie suffers from what counselors describe as “complicated grief.” When complication occurs and a person is unable to move on with his or her life, the mind and soul can play tricks on us. These are so common that the film is able to speak at several levels while also asking some intriguing questions.

For a thought-provoking and soulful journey, Charlie St. Cloud explores loving relationships before and after death.


» Have you or someone you love ever experienced a “near death” experience as Charlie did? How did it change you (or them)? Were you (or they) able to be more sensitive in “seeing” the spiritual realm?

» The relationship that developed between Charlie and Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew) seems to be based on more than just physical attraction. Do you believe the author is implying that their lives were destined by God to be together? Why?

» Death is something that each one of us will experience. What preparations have you made to be ready for the life that is to come? Who do you trust to give you an accurate description of what that life will be like and how we prepare to live it? How did you come to that decision?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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