For reasons known only to Buena Vista's marketing department, every trailer and commercial for The Invisible has sold the film as a supernatural horror film along the lines of The Sixth Sense. As a bait and switch, it's only slightly less deceptive than "Shining," the hilarious Internet-only trailer that reconfigures Stanley Kubrick's The Shining into a heart-warming romantic comedy for the whole family. Based on a Swedish film called Den Osynlige, The Invisible could be described as a ghost story, but it intends not to frighten teenagers so much as appeal to their mopey narcissism, like an emo Wings Of Desire. It's hard to imagine why the studio is deliberately setting people up for disappointment, but then again, the film disappoints on its own terms, too, failing to drum up any sympathy for a self-pitying rich kid who can't pry his eyes from his navel.
Like a typical emo kid, Justin Chatwin seems to believe that he feels more than anyone else and that he's smarter, too, since his teacher swoons over the sophisticated poems that bore the Neanderthals in class. Even his own mother, a prim widow played by Marcia Gay Harden, denies his ambition to go to London for a creative writing program and in an early dream sequence, he fantasizes about offing himself on graduation day with a shotgun in the basement. Chatwin gets his dark wish granted (sort of) when Margarita Levieva, a tough girl from the wrong side of the tracks, accuses him of ratting her out to the police for a smash-and-grab job at a jewelry store. Levieva and her thug pals go a little overboard in beating him up and wind up leaving him for dead in the forest. But Chatwin wakes to find himself caught in limbo between life and death, hovering over the physical world like an angel.
Though there's some urgency to the situation—Chatwin wants someone to discover his comatose body and nurse him back to health—The Invisible mainly concerns itself with Chatwin gaining a deeper understanding of the people in his life. He discovers that his mother, far from the unfeeling control freak she appears to be, actually cares about him and that Levieva has her reasons, too, and possesses gorgeous, flowing tendrils of hair beneath that black skull cap of hers. With songs by Death Cab For Cutie, Snow Patrol, A Perfect Circle, and Remy Zero on the soundtrack, The Invisible follows a sensitive kid as he gets even more sensitive, but Chatwin's such a blank—and Levieva such a Disneyfied bad girl—that the music remains the only thing carrying the emotions across.