“Jamie Marks Is Dead”
A Paranormal Romance
The body of teenager Jamie Marks (Noah Silver) is found by the river in a small town during the winter. Adam (Cameron Monaghan), the jock star of his school’s cross country team becomes fascinated with Jamie who was a boy that no one really knew or had anything to do with except maybe to bully him. Then Jamie’s ghost begins to appear not only to Adam but also to Gracie (Morgan Saylor), his new girlfriend and the person who found his body. Adam finds himself between two worlds. He has a new romance with Gracie but he also feels a deep connection to Jamie, who brings him closer to the world of the undead.
Gracie found Jamie at the river when she was looking for rocks for her collection. Jamie had been something of a nerd who others joked about and really had nothing to do with. The boys bullied him in the gym locker room. Nevertheless when the news got out that Jamie was dead, Adam was deeply affected. He feels really bad that he had not intervened on Jamie’s behalf at any time.
Jamie’s death brought Adam and Gracie closer together—they were both concerned how his death was treated by the community and through this they became boyfriend and girlfriend. Their relationship was not what we would consider solid and it was tested even more when the ghost of Jamie began to appear to both of them. The ghost was in its naked and bruised state. Adam becomes curious and then Jamie’s ghost begins to emerge from his closet and Adam feeling very guilty befriends him and the two become close. But Jamie isn’t Adam’s only problem. His mother was recently paralyzed in a car crash and her perpetually drunk best friend who had caused the accident now feels obliged to hang out at their house. There is also his older jerk of a brother who is on his case too.
When he can no longer handle life at home, Adam takes off and hides out at an abandoned farmhouse that Jamie suggests. There they encounter yet another ghost and when Adam mishandles her, it looks likely he could end up condemned to a life amongst all these dead people too. The film is a charmer even with some of its problems.
The relationship between Adam and Jamie is uneven and although Jamie obviously develops a very definite crush on Adam, it is never clear if he in return feels anything other than guilt. There is also the issue that whilst it toys with a supernatural theme it falls short of being either a horror movie or a thriller. We never really know what caused Jamie’s death and while there are hints, nothing is conclusive. No one really seems to care that Jamie died and in a classroom following his passing, not a single person can recall a memory with him.
Director Carter Smith has crafted visceral, frightening scenarios. There is a sense of gloom in the film and this is true for both the living and the dead. However, when the relationship between Adam and Jamie deepens, Smith seems to hold back on what could have been a fascinating narrative of homoeroticism, with Adam not wanting to move further with Gracie as he gets closer and closer with Jamie. Somehow this point was missed. What we do get is an affecting, poetic, character-driven ghost story.
Adam treats Jamie like a real person. He takes sympathy on Jamie who clearly knows that he’s dead and feels completely alone. Wanting to make up for the loneliness felt in Jamie’s life, Adam spends a lot of time with Jamie, which is also an opportunity for Adam to escape his own stressful home life. The more attached Adam gets to Jamie, the more detached Adam gets from the real world, so it’s up to Gracie to try to help Adam move on from helping Jamie move on.
The cinematography of a rural New York town is beautiful and the performances from the relatively young cast are fine and the director managed to avoid turning this into a melodrama. I had a bit of a problem with the metaphors and allegories about being lonely and being in love. I did, however, like that here is a ghost story in which the ghosts are treated like everyone else. Some of the film is quite intense and by and large, it is an enjoyable experience.