Life doesn't always turn out the way we want them to be. Even the best laid plans can do a 180 degree spin and remind us of the ephemeral nature of life and the volatility of dreams.
Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) lives a charmed life with his 11 year old brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) and his nurse mother (Kim Basinger). He gets headlined in local papers, and girls bat their eyelashes at him. He even wins his sailing regattas. Moreover, he is about to start his Stanford scholarship in autumn. But before he leaves, he promised his younger brother he'd teach him how to play baseball, everyday at sunset until college starts. But one night, while driving Sam to see a friend, a tragic accident befalls the siblings. Charlie flatlines, but is revived. Unfortunately, Sam doesn’t make it. This leaves a distraught Charlie who, on the day of Sam’s burial, refuses to finish the ceremony and runs to the woods to mourn. But he finds Sam instead, waiting for him. Remember the deal they made earlier?
Charlie defers his Stanford scholarship and becomes a recluse, working at a graveyard where his brother was buried. For the next 5 years, he plays catch with Sam’s ghost while life around him moves forward. Then he meets Tess (Amanda Crew) who shares his love for sailing. He gets infatuated, but will this mutual attraction take him away from his brother Sam?
The film starts out with a lot of promise, and Zac Efron hooks you from the get go. Not only is he easy on the eyes, but his intensity belies the emotive ability of an actor his age. Everything about Zac as Charlie is believable – except the story. As the narrative moves further on, more and more questions are begging to be asked. The most logical one is, where does Sam go outside their “play catch” – and why can’t Charlie see him anywhere else, at Charlie’s cabin where he stays alone scribbling most of the time? Tess’ character even begs more questions which we refuse to reveal here to avoid spoilers. Why did Charlie’s mom move to Oregon – to escape the tragic memories? Then why does Charlie refuse to take her calls when, more than any one in the story, he was more to blame?
As the film draws to a close, there wasn’t even a sense of closure for the grieving mother who was totally forgotten from the picture. How can they forget Kim Basinger? LOL. The character of Alistair (Augustus Prew), Charlie’s heavily accented best friend, succeeded to be distracting and immensely annoying. The location is one of jaw-dropping beauty (Vancouver) it felt like earth’s version of what could be heaven. You’d understand why Charlie refused to move away (aside from the obvious).
Zac Efron is nothing short of brilliant, this much is clear. He cajoles us with his grief, and we sit back and sympathize. He smolders even in his most pensive moments. Unfortunately, (Efron's “17 Again” director) Burr Steers’ movie is too whimsical – and, well, unreal – to be appreciated.