Is The Lovely Bones Based On a True Story?

Spearheaded by director Peter Jackson (‘Lord Of The Rings‘), ‘The Lovely Bones’ is a haunting and heartbreaking portrayal of the brutal rape and murder of 14-year-old Susie Salmon. Susie, who has already been murdered at the beginning of the movie, moves through a gentle purgatory-like state as she witnesses her loved ones come to terms with the heinous crime. Saoirse Ronan’s brilliant performance in portraying the heart-wrenching dilemma between going up to heaven and staying connected to this earth has been praised time and again.

The movie chronicles the events after the rape and shows how Susie’s murderer, unbeknown to the grieving family, goes about unpunished. Viewers are also touched by how her brutal murder took away her innocent teenage dreams and how Susie struggles to accept her new form of existence. Such horrifying and heartbreaking incidents often occur in real life, making fans wonder whether this beautiful movie has its roots in reality. Let’s find out, shall we?

Is The Lovely Bones Based On a True Story?

‘The Lovely Bones’ is partially based on a true story. The movie was adapted from the novel of the same name by author Alice Sebold. While the novel itself classifies as fiction and has fictional tropes like a deceased girl being the narrator, its roots lie in reality. From what we can tell, she based the character of Susie on a girl who was also a victim of rape and murder. Alice heard the true story of a 14-year-old high school girl from Norristown, Pennsylvania, who was kidnapped from her parents before being brutally raped and murdered in the 70s.

Through her story, Alice put herself in the shoes of the Norristown girl described how the girl would feel if she could look down upon her loved ones from above. Alice was no stranger to the experience of rape and the dread that comes with it. A brave and inspiring rape survivor, she seems to have weaved her experiences with the unspeakable crime into the story. In May 1981, Alice Sebold was at Syracuse University when she was attacked, brutally assaulted, and raped. The brave young woman somehow managed to survive the horrifying ordeal, but her rapist initially escaped.

Sebold faced all odds and decided to continue at the university, where she came face to face with her rapist again. This time, she was able to identify him, and the perpetrator was brought to justice. Sebold claimed that she never intended to write a memoir, but while writing ‘The Lovely Bones,’ she felt as if her past experiences with rape were clamoring to be let out. She then gave in and put a part of her ordeal into the character of Susie Salmon.

The movie, though, deviates from the book in its nature of storytelling. While the book is a dark and disturbing portrayal of a brutal crime and its aftereffects, the movie has a much “lighter” tone and comes across as a hopeful story of a soul ultimately finding the freedom it craves for. The film also dials down the violence and torment that a reader might face when reading the book.

When director Peter Jackson addressed speculations that claimed he had deviated from the source material, he said, “I don’t know how anybody can imagine a perfect adaptation of a book because the medium is so different. To me, what’s actually interesting about adaptation is that you’re giving a personal reaction to the book that is the filmmaker’s. You take 20 different filmmakers and give them the same book, you’re going to get 20 different films.”

He continued, “The definitive version of ‘The Lovely Bones’ is Alice Sebold’s novel. If you want to experience ‘The Lovely Bones’ in the way it was intended, that’s what you do, you read the novel.” Keeping controversies aside, watching the movie is a hauntingly beautiful experience that leaves a lasting effect on the audience. This effect grows more profound when the viewers realize that the tear-jerking story is deep-seated in real life.

Read More: Where Was The Lovely Bones Filmed?