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The Ending Of The Lovely Bones Explained

"My name is Salmon, like the fish, first name: Susie. I was 14 years old when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

"The Lovely Bones," based on the 2002 novel by Alice Sebold, follows Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a teenager who is raped and murdered by her neighbor, George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), and watches from the afterlife as her family struggles to cope with her disappearance.

Though the subject matter is dark, the 2009 film has a happy ending — as happy as it can be, all things considered. As she prepares to move into an afterlife where she will lose touch with the world, Susie returns to Earth and possesses her classmate Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando) to say goodbye to her crush, Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie). While this is happening, Harvey disposes of the safe holding Susie's dismembered remains in the Connors' sinkhole.

Flashing forward, snippets of her family's lives imply they've found closure. On the other hand, Harvey is attempting to lure a young woman into his vehicle. She scoffs at his advances, and while he's overlooking the city, an icicle strikes him, and he's knocked over the edge of a cliff.

Ready to move on, Susie enters heaven and closes the film by mirroring her monologue at the beginning of "The Lovely Bones." She adds, "I was here for a moment and then I was gone. I wish you all a long and happy life."

What happens to Susie Salmon?

Throughout "The Lovely Bones," Susie Salmon grapples with letting go of her past and moving into the next phase of her afterlife. Saoirse Ronan, who was the same age as her ill-fated character at the time, explained to Michigan Daily that Susie is reluctant to accept that she is dead.

"She wants to be back on Earth with her family and she knows she can't do that," Ronan told the outlet. "And to get (to heaven), she has to focus on her love for her family and not the hate and vengeance she has for her murder."

It's not until she watches her dad, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), succumb to that same hate and vengeance and spiral out of control that she realizes how dangerous it is. By fixating on anger rather than hope, the tragedy consumes their lives in an unhealthy way.

By the end of the film, though, Susie is ready to move on. Harvey's crimes have been exposed, her parents are back together, and her siblings are safe. Before entering heaven, she briefly returns to Earth to kiss her crush, Ray, and thank him for the poem she never got to read. Then, she enters the unknown and becomes the last one to find peace.

"Nobody notices when we leave," Susie says at the end of the movie. "I mean, the moment when we really choose to go. At best you might feel a whisper, or the wave of a whisper undulating down."

Does George Harvey ever get caught?

After Jack and Susie's sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver), become suspicious of Harvey, they take major risks to prove that he killed Susie. After watching him leave the house, Lindsey breaks in and uncovers a notebook filled with damning evidence: newspaper clippings about the crime, blueprints for the underground room, a lock of Susie's hair. It also reveals that she is Harvey's next target.

Lindsey manages to escape with the notebook, handing it over to Grandma Lynn (Susan Sarandon), who turns it over to the police. The timing is just off, though, because Harvey knows she took it and can dump Susie's body and skip town before the manhunt begins.

The film ends with Harvey tumbling to an icy death in a ravine, but it's never stated whether or not he's connected to the other murders that Susie learns about in her afterlife. It's also unknown how wide the search for him had spread or how long he evaded the police.

Of course, the Salmon family gets some closure in knowing what happened, but Susie's body is never recovered nor is Harvey apprehended. Lindsey is forced to live knowing that she nearly suffered the same fate as her sister. Harvey's fate leaves viewers to ponder how much justification comes with him dying alone; was it enough, or did the families of his victims need something more?

What's next for the Salmon family?

At the beginning of "The Lovely Bones," the Salmon family leads a charming suburban life filled with toothy portraits and handmade knit hats. Everything comes crashing down after Susie's disappearance; they live in a time she describes as "before missing kids started appearing on milk cartons or were feature stories on the daily news," when people didn't think things like this could happen in their neighborhoods.

Her parents Jack and Abigail (Rachel Weisz) cope in opposite ways, which strains their marriage. Lindsey and her younger brother Buckley (Christian Thomas Ashdale) struggle to deal with the loss of their sister and then watching their parents fall apart. When Rachel leaves the family, it seems as though the marriage is over.

However, at the end of the film, she comes home and reconciles with Jack. They appear to be on the same page now that she has dealt with her feelings and he has let go of his obsessive rage. Rachel goes into her daughter's bedroom for the first time since she went missing and whispers, "I love you, Susie."

We also learn that Lindsey is in love and expecting a baby despite her claims that love doesn't exist. Knowing that everyone will be okay without her watching over them, Susie knows that it's finally time to let go.

What is the In-Between?

Susie exists in the In-Between for the majority of "The Lovely Bones." The film is never explicitly religious, but this surreal space is regarded as a pre-heaven, a whimsical purgatory for people who aren't ready to accept their deaths yet. While there, Susie meets Harvey's other victims and connects with Holly (Nikki SooHoo). The two girls dance and play dress-up, act like superstars posing for pictures, prancing through the ever-expanding universe.

The In-Between allows them to explore the gleeful, innocent fun that was taken from them while still being able to connect with their old lives. "I was alive in my own perfect world," Susie says of her time there. Director Peter Jackson said his interpretation of the place intentionally differs from Sebold's.

"We based it very much on the subconscious. We didn't really look on it as a practical, physical location as it is a bit more in the book," he told SFGATE. "Everything she reacts to and does is her subconscious having to deal with the various mysteries and questions that she's confronted with when she's in the In-Between."

This ambiguous, spiritual plane — while separate from reality — is tethered to people in Susie's former life. Ruth, her "otherworldly" classmate, can see her and feel her presence, while Buckley draws her afterlife and says she visits him. The In-Between can be interpreted as a grieving space for Susie and her family to utilize on their journeys toward whatever comes post-"The Lovely Bones" for them.