“Adam, you don’t want a dead boy lurking around outside your house, trust me.”
Writer-director Carter Smith distinguishes himself mightily with Jamie Marks Is Dead, a ghost story about friendship and duty from beyond the grave.
Adam McCormick (Cameron Monaghan) is a high school cross country star who becomes curiously attached to the ghost of a murdered classmate, Jamie “Moonie” Marks (Noah Silver).
Marks’ body is found at the riverside by weird goth girl Grace Highsmith (Morgan Saylor), with whom Adam quickly becomes romantically involved. This development leads to the discovery of Marks’ ghost, still shivering and dressed in skivvies, skulking around Grace’s backyard.
“We all have a choice, Adam,” Grace tells him. “I choose not to see him.”
Driven by pity for Marks, a friendless boy routinely tormented by his fellow jocks, Adam vows to help the wayward spirit, giving him clothes and a place to live in his own closet.
Adam reaches out because he’s lonely, too. His own brother Aaron (Ryan Munzert) is a macho douchebag, while his trailer park mama (Liv Tyler) has chosen to share their home with Lucy, the drunk driver (Judy Greer) that put her in a wheelchair.
Adam affectionately nicknames her “the Paralyzer.”
At this point in the narrative, the viewer will surely make assumptions about Adam eventually being forced to disentangle himself from an increasingly needy spook. Smith, who adapted the novel One For Sorrow by Daniel Barzak, avoids the obvious track.
Instead, Adam atones for his callous indifference to the suffering of a fellow soul, by pledging emotional support to someone he never cared for in life.
The action takes place in another one of those blighted, boarded-up little towns that appear bereft of anything resembling empathy or compassion.
But sometimes humanity rises to the occasion.
Jamie Marks is Dead, is a fascinating, somber movie that will surprise a few people, thanks to an unexpectedly hopeful final act. One that allows for a smidgen of light into a 99 percent dreary reality.
My thanks to friend of the blog, Andre Hagestedt, for recommending it. You may want to thank him, too.