Jamie Marks is Dead
"Twilight" has ruined coming of age films that include the supernatural. Luckily, "Jamie Marks is Dead" has reclaimed some of the street cred for the genre.
This haunting coming of age film uses a ghost story to explore the alienation and ennui of being a teenager. Rather than dwelling on the supernatural elements or murder, the film delves into the complexities of relationships. There are great performances, including that of Cameron Monaghan.
The film begins with Jamie Marks (Noah Silver) found dead in his underwear by the river. Gracie (Morgan Saylor), the emo girl who finds him, befriends Adam (Monaghan), the only person to really notice him when he was alive. Adam's home life sucks, considering his optimistic mother Linda (Liv Tyler) gets paralyzed in a car accident and befriends the woman who hit her (Judy Greer).
As the teens become closer, they realize they're the only ones who can see Jamie's ghost. Adam gets sucked into the world of the undead and forms a friendship with the ghost in the hopes of helping Jamie. As the film progresses, Adam gets sucked in deeper; we eventually find out what happened to Jamie.
The film is really smart. It doesn't become an episode of "The Ghost Whisperer," or get too mired in teen angst or the undead. Instead, it becomes a journey through the inner darkness and an exploration of relationships. It's not scared to portray an intimate connection between two teenage boys. It doesn't devolve into a gay ghost story, but instead explores the complex navigation of homosocial relationships. It's easy to be a jock with a lot of masculine posturing, but the relationship between Adam and Jamie is more about two normal guys who happen to be friends. It represents a kind of friendship that may exist outside the rigid structure of high school.
The acting is stellar. Monaghan gets his due as a lead after being overlooked in his few appearances in more mainstream films. Despite some gay undertones, it's interesting to see Monaghan outside his memorable role as gay Gallagher Liam on "Shameless." Silver channels a creepy undead Harry Potter that explores the deep psychological depths of bullied nerds everywhere. Saylor offers a unique take on the weird girl. This isn't your typical Ally Sheedy "Breakfast Club" goth girl, but she's equally as captivating.
Tyler and Greer also offer a lot as peripheral characters with back stories you're curious about.
What's so refreshing about "Jamie Marks is Dead" is that teen films usually become about sex, romance, or alienation. Instead, this film focuses on the complex intense friendships while still honoring the emotions that run so deep during those times. It also presents an intimate friendship between two young men without touching the internalized homophobia that usually keeps them from developing. Overall, a great touching and impactful film worth checking out.