Making the Grades
Charlie St. Cloud (Zac Efron) is riding on the crest of success after he and his younger brother Sam (Charlie Tahan) win a local sailing race. It is quite an accomplishment since the boys live in relative poverty with their single mother (Kim Basinger). The victory results in a scholarship and Charlie is Stanford-bound. But a trip to a celebratory keg party on the night of high school graduation ends badly when a drunk driver plows into the siblings. Sam is killed at the scene and Charlie flat-lines in the back of an ambulance until a persistent paramedic (Ray Liotta) revives him.
Though Charlie is physically alive, he is a long way from living. Deferring his scholarship, he isolates himself in a job as a caretaker in the cemetery. Every evening as the sunset canon fires at the yacht club, he leaves work and rushes to a secluded spot in the graveyard where he meets his dead brother to play a game of catch.
With his life on pause, he refuses to leave town even after his mother moves on. While most of the community understandably thinks Charlie is crazy, the sober and reclusive young man intrigues one woman.
Tess Carroll (Amanda Crew) is also a sailor. Days away from the start of a solo trip around the world, she sets out from the local harbor to test her boat on stormy waters. When she fails to return, Charlie realizes he must forgo his nightly ritual with Sam if he wants to join the search.
In so many ways, Efron plays the perfect adolescent heartthrob, with a handsome tousled look, a wounded spirit and an aura of mystery about him. His character even has two teenaged store clerks swooning over him. Yet the script (that includes a scene of sensuality which fortunately skips most of the sexual details) seems like a more grown up storyline for the actor who appears to be transitioning away from his roles in High School Musical and 17 Again.
Still, this love story is often sideswiped by alcohol use, surreal occurrences involving spirits and the repeated depiction of the car accident that may be disturbing for others. As well, the script is often confusing as filmmakers try to construct a happy ending with a combination of the dead and living.
So while many of Efron’s fans will be swept away by his latest screen appearance, parents may find this movie enters rough waters when it comes to younger family viewers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Charlie St. Cloud.
Why does Charlie agree to meet Sam everyday? How does this ritual keep Charlie from dealing with his grief? What events help Charlie start to move on with his life?
While Charlie experiences a very dramatic second chance, what other events can cause people to reassess their direction in life?