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CHARLIE ST. CLOUD

SYNOPSIS:
Charlie St Cloud (Zac Efron) is devastated by his brother Sam's (Charlie Tahan) death and takes a job as caretaker at the cemetery where he is buried. Charlie's bond with Sam is so strong he can see Sam, even play catch with him each night, but when he meets a girl (Amanda Crew) he likes, he is faced with a choice between a promise to Sam and the promise of a real romance with his dream girl.

Review by Louise Keller:
Zak Effron is one good reason to see this tearjerker about love, loss and second chances. The camera loves Effron, with his dreamy blue eyes and long, spidery lashes and here he is convincing as the school graduate with the world at his feet who shuts himself off from life after the death of his younger brother. Director Burr Steers, who worked with Effron in 17 Again, has avoided the pitfall of sentimentality as adapted from the novel by screenwriters Craig Pearce (Strictly Ballroom) and Lewis Colick (Ladder 49); there's a certain tenderness about the story that explores letting go and taking chances.

When we first meet Effron's Charlie St Cloud, he is sailing his boat in the harbour of his picturesque Pacific Northwest hometown, his brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) at his side. It's a far cry from Charlie's haunted persona, five years after Sam's tragic death, when he has relinquished his dreams of taking a sailing scholarship at Stanton, and spends a solitary and secluded life as cemetery caretaker. Guilt is his main companion; he was on 'Sam watch', the night his brother died. These days, reality finds him living with the ghosts of the dead and is only brought into the present by his slightly strange colleague Alistair (Augustus Prew, nicely bizarre) and the ever-destructive geese he constantly chases from the graves. It is not until sunset that we understand what keeps Charlie there - it is another reality in which Sam appears. And so the blurry lines between reality and fantasy begin.

In many ways, this is an internal film and we are taken into the internal world of Charlie St Cloud, as he struggles to cope with what is real and what is not. Amanda Crew is lovely as Tess, the catalyst who makes Charlie understand his raison d'etre and the reason he has been given a second chance. Cameos from Kim Basinger as Charlie's mother and Ray Liotta as the paramedic who saves his life, add to the overall. This is a film whose impact is greater than its storyline promises. After all, mood is one of the major players. The settings are picturesque - perfect sunsets over tranquil waters and stunning forests with imposing fir trees. As a moth instinctively finds its way to the light, the story weaves its way naturally to a logical and uplifting conclusion.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Pretty people like Zac Efron, Amanda Crew and the strikingly beautiful location of Eagle Harbour in British Columbia (West Vancouver) deliver the eye candy in Charles St. Cloud, a romantic drama adapted from a novel by Ben Sherwood. These bright and shiny elements are a little unusual in a film about seeing dead people, but they don't rescue it.

After establishing their shared love of sailing, Charlie (Efron) and younger brother Sam Charlie Tahan) are seen very briefly with their widowed mother, Claire (Kim Basinger), who has miniscule screen time. Slightly more visible is the other big name in the cast, Ray Liotta as Florio Ferrente, a paramedic with a key role in the plot, such as it is. The film is rather dull and a little too schmaltzy (the score makes it seem deliberately so) to really engage us, as the brotherly bond is manifested in Charlie meeting the ghost of Sam in daily (and dreary) baseball practice rituals.

The plot turns on Charlie's promise to turn up every sunset in the waterside woods to meet Sam. But when he meets Tess (Amanda Crew), he is pulled away. What will he do.... I haven't read the book so I don't know whether the adaptation is faithful or not, especially how lone sailor Tess appears to Charlie at one stage, after she has disappeared. It rather confuses the story, but perhaps the book does it better.

The two best things in the film for me, apart from Eagle Harbour, are the performances of Charlie Tahan - who does NOT play the Charlie of the title - and the whimsically named young English actor, Augustus Prew as Charlie's vodka fuelled and laconically funny best mate. And yes, Zac Efron and Amanda Crew are fine, but they play rather plastic, run of the mill characters with little actual 'character'. The quirky and cute faced young Tahan - who looks a bit like Steve Zahn may have looked at age 11 - carries his scenes with Efron, as does Prew. (Augustus Ray Prew has a brother called Somerset and both are members of a theatre company.)
First Published in the Sun-Herald

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

CHARLIE ST. CLOUD (M)
(US/Canda, 2010)

CAST: Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Augustus Prew, Donal Logue, Kim Basinger, Ray Liotta, Dave Franco, Matt Ward

PRODUCER: Michael Fottrell, Marc Platt

DIRECTOR: Burr Steers

SCRIPT: Craig Pearce, Lewis Colick (novel by Ben Sherwood)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Enrique Chediak

EDITOR: Padraic McKinley

MUSIC: Rolfe Kent

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ida Random

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 23, 2010







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