Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
|Featuring:||Nicholas Hoult … R
Teresa Palmer … Julie
Analeigh Tipton … Nora
Rob Corddry … M
Dave Franco … Perry
John Malkovich … Grigio
Cory Hardrict … Kevin
Daniel Rindress-Kay … Solder #1
|Distributor:||Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate|
“Cold body. Warm heart.”
Being dead is all “R” (Nicholas Hoult) remembers. He, like so many others crowding in the abandoned airport, is a zombie. How it happened isn’t important. All that matters is his collection of “stuff” that reminds him of being human, and his need to feed.
On one such expedition into the city to find humans, he looks into the eyes of Julie (Teresa Palmer) and is smitten. Suddenly, something more matters than his desire to eat. For some inexplicable reason, R decides to save a girl from death, not realizing that she will wind up saving him. There’s just one detail he doesn’t want to mention to her… the last person he killed was the boy she loved.
Julie, at first, doesn’t understand R, but then begins to see a change in him. Where once all hope was lost, now it sparks again in the belief that even zombies can be redeemed.
I’m not a big zombie movie fan, but the trailers for this quirky romantic comedy won me over. I read the book and then saw the film, and, in comparing the two, the film is better. Not only is the content far less troubling (the book has sexual situations, graphic violence, and profane language), but the subtle but powerful religious undercurrent is more apparent. R is dead. He needs the love of Julie to awaken him, to change him, and to make him fully human again. Christians know what it is like to be a “zombie”—to be dead without Christ, and need help with salvation. His love changes us as powerfully as Julie’s love changes R from a rotting corpse into a living, breathing young man.
While most of the story is positive, some of it relies on zombie behavior to get across what a depraved, sick individual R really is as a corpse—his worst action is in eating the brain of Julie’s boyfriend (he talks about it, but we rarely see it) in order to experience his memories; one is so repulsive to him, of the boy’s final moments, that he spits it out in disgust and starts to cry (repentance for his actions… and that’s the last time he ever eats brains). R’s transformation creates a ripple effect in other zombies; all of them start to dream again, to have heartbeats, to bleed and feel cold and warmth and love. We don’t understand why the cure works, simply that it does, and that love is where it begins.
For a movie revolving around death, it has surprising moments of, albeit dark, humor; the internal monologue of R is both sweet and funny, as he struggles to express what he feels for Julie. And, yes, the allusions to Romeo and Juliet are intentional; there’s even a balcony! Sadly, while there isn’t a lot in the way of profane content, there’s still a half dozen abuses of Jesus’ name, some profanity, and one f-word. Violence involves zombies attacking and chowing down on humans (mostly off-screen). R eats brains on several occasions (he stuffs a crumbly substance into his mouth, but we barely get to see it). Humans gun down zombies and “bonies” (zombies so petrified they no longer look human, but are skeletal) alike. There’s no sexual content, although R does watch in fascination as Juliet strips down to her underwear, in order to get out of soaking wet clothes (we see her from behind… and he does look away).
On the novel jacket, there’s a quote from Twilight author Stephanie Meyer about what an unexpected, touching romantic protagonist R is. Indeed, where her story was about a girl choosing death in order to be with her loved one, here we find a heroine bringing life instead. For many believers, the novel is a difficult and often offensive read, but the film is softened enough that the message of selfless and redeeming love is allowed to shine through.
Violence: Heavy to extreme, but Moderate for a zombie movie / Profanity: Heavy—OMG (6), “Jesus” (4), “God” (2), “hell” (5), f-word (1 or 2), s-words (7), “*ss-hole,” “cr*p” / Sex/Nudity: Moderate—passionate kiss, female rear view in bra and panties, male showering (bare back only), minor cleavage
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.