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Anyone who has lost a loved one will recognize the feeling. You would give anything, do anything, just to see your beloved one more time. In Charlie St. Cloud, Charlie is given that opportunity, but it only serves to delay, not negate, the pain.
Charlie (Zac Efron) plans to head for Stanford University on a sailing scholarship when tragedy strikes. A car accident takes the life of his younger brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan). Frantic with grief and guilt, Charlie runs off from the funeral, where Sam appears to him. Charlie promises to meet him each day, when the ship cannons fire at sunset, to practice baseball tosses. They may not have much, but at least they'll have each other for a few minutes.
Five years later, Charlie has abandoned his Stanford dreams, sailing, and much of life. He works at the graveyard, where he occasionally meets deceased people as they pass through, and keeps his promise to Sam. Will a pretty sailor give him an interest in life again?
The film, which takes cues from The Sixth Sense and Field of Dreams, is not gruesome or scary. It does, however, embrace the romantic gothic vibe made popular by the Twilight series, with a love scene in a misty cemetery in which sex is implied. Rated PG-13, there are some mild instances of language and a fairly intense accident scene.
Efron, the star of the High School Musical franchise, proves he has moved beyond being a lightweight teen star, with the acting chops to be believable in the role. Although the movie strays into corny territory from time to time, the back-and-forth between brothers feels authentic and funny enough to keep the audience engaged.
A sympathetic Catholic character creates a respectful tone toward faith when he tells Charlie he believes God saved him for a reason. Finding that reason will be the key to Charlie's future.