Ben Sherwood's Novel THE DEATH AND LIFE OF CHARLIE ST. CLOUD pretty much describes this Hallmarky love and spiritualism showcase for teen idol Zac Efron. Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick adapted the book for the screen and director Burr Sherwood (known for his other films that are of this genre) stirs the whipped cream. It is a pretty story with pretty people filmed in a pretty location (British Columbia) and the results are pretty predictable, yet when compared to the types of stories on film that flood the theaters at least this film has gentle heart and a lack of terror and horror and for that we should be pleased.
Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron, who holds in own in this rather implausible role) is a highly regarded young sailor who is wins a sailing scholarship to Stanford upon graduation from high school. He is devoted to his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) and his single mother nurse Claire (Kim Basinger - don't blink or you'll miss her very brief appearance in the film). One night while Claire is on extra shift at the hospital Charlie and Sam are in an auto accident: Sam dies, but Charlie is resuscitated by paramedic Florio Ferrente (Ray Liotta, in another very brief cameo). Charlie is devastated over Sam's death and gives up his chances for a life by taking a custodian job in the town cemetery so he can be near a certain spot where he 'sees' and communicates with Sam every sunset - a life long promise to never leave his little brother. Five years pass and Charlie's friend Alistair (Augustus Prew) - his only other friend Sully (Dave Franco, brother of actor James Franco) has gone into the military - tries to encourage Charlie to date, but Charlie's eyes fall on Tess (Amanda Crew), a fellow sailor from the past, and love begins. Tess decides to take a long solo voyage in her boat and disappears. Charlie meets the now cancer-ridden and dying Florio who gives him his St Jude medal and encourages Charlie to embrace life. Charlie strikes out on a mission to find the missing Tess and the rest is pretty obvious.
Though the story is heavy on the saccharine edge and strains credibility, the team of actors is very fine - especially Zac Efron, whose presence is on the screen in practically every frame - so the film ends up being endearing. The cinematography by Enrique Chediak is gorgeous and the musical score by Rolfe Kent leans heavily on sad love songs. It is not a profound film though it does dip gently into the ideas of 'the beyond', but there is something about the honesty of it all that makes it s a satisfying evening of entertainment.