Lifetime is bringing a festival film starring Saoirse Ronan to the small screen on May 9 with Stockholm, Pennsylvania. With the premise of a young woman taken away from her family and Ronan's starring role, you have to wonder if it has anything in common with The Lovely Bones . Stockholm, Pennsylvania has the same family drama elements that The Lovely Bones did, plus the films share the same actress and setting of suburban Pennsylvania. There are also the specifics of grieving parents and a middle-aged man preying on a young girl. But despite these overarching themes, the stories are actually quite different. Spoilers for both films follow.
The biggest difference between the movies is what actually happens to Ronan's character. Stockholm, Pennsylvania takes place in the aftermath of Ronan's character Leanne being kidnapped for 17 years. She comes home to her parents (portrayed by Cynthia Nixon and David Warshofsky) as a 22-year-old woman, but longs for the life she had with her captor, Ben (Jason Issacs). Ronan in The Lovely Bones, as Susie Salmon, is also abducted by a man (her neighbor George, portrayed by Stanley Tucci), but she is actually dead for the majority of the film.
After Susie is lured into an underground lair by George, he rapes and kills her. (The movie version doesn't specify that the young girl was raped, but the sexual assault is outlined in the novel by Alice Sebold, who herself is a survivor of rape.) As Susie's family deals with her disappearance, she looks after them from a fantastical, afterlife realm.
Stockholm, Pennsylvania has no otherworldly elements — excepting Leanne's prayers to the universe that Ben taught her — and is firmly planted in the real world (albeit a dark one). Leanne, who prefers to go by the name that Ben gave her, Leia, is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and loves the man who raised her (and is in jail for kidnapping her). She must adjust to life with her biological parents Marcy and Glen, even though she has no memory of them. But like Susie's parents in The Lovely Bones, the loss of their daughter is too much for the couple to handle. While Marcy and Glen are still together for Leanne/Leia's homecoming, they separate shortly after due to differences in handling their rediscovered daughter. In The Lovely Bones, Susie's parents, Abigail and Jack (portrayed by Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg), separate after Jack becomes obsessed with trying to figure out who killed their daughter.
If you think the movie about the girl returning home to her family would be more uplifting than the movie about the girl who died, think again. Stockholm, Pennsylvania takes a dark turn about halfway through the film. And as strong of performances as Ronan and Nixon give, the seemingly unrealistic twist of events comes out of nowhere... and is extremely depressing.
So perhaps the greatest similarity of both films is the potential that feels squandered. Ronan has been extremely talented from a young age (see: Atonement) and she's a mature actress. But as a person who read The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson's adaptation (yes, that Peter Jackson) was not what I had envisioned and took the mystical too far. And as a person who was truly enjoying Stockholm, Pennsylvania until the middle mark, I was disappointed that one of the major characters seemed to betray herself — and what the audience expected of her — completely.