“I never wanted to be famous,” Tom tells his wife Maggie in the beginning of the film Stir of Echoes. “I just never expected to be so ordinary.”
After being hypnotized by Maggie’s sister, Tom is gifted with a psychic connection to Samantha, the ghost of a neighborhood girl gone missing. His son also has a connection to Samantha and converses with her throughout the movie.
Initially his gift and his visions distress Tom. As the story unfolds, Tom gets more obsessed with what happened to Samantha. He receives a message to dig for her.
When his wife finds Tom in their backyard digging, Maggie wants him to stop.
Tom is angry and begins shouting at her, “This is the most important thing that’s ever happened to me. This is the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”
This sense of purpose is what moves Tom forward. If a different man, a more accomplished man, has become a “receiver” of ghost noise, I’m not sure they would have tuned in and followed the leads. Furthermore, if we consider that a person with less physical strength than Tom had been the receiver of the ghost messages, they might not have been able to do the digging and demolition that went into following through with the discovery of Samantha’s corpse.
Tom is the perfect receiver, the perfect candidate, to take on this mission. It made me wonder if Samantha, our ghost girl, had tried to reach out to anyone else prior to Tom. Tom’s son Jake communicates with Samantha, but not about finding her killers or her body. Did Samantha try to find other adults that could act upon the visions she showed?
Alternatively, maybe she didn’t try to connect with other adults. Perhaps Samantha was waiting patiently to give her messages to Tom, knowing he was strong and yearning to be extraordinary. Was Samantha waiting for a bump on the head, a burning fever, or some other pivotal moment where his guard was down enough to tap into his mind?
As the film wraps, we have a moment of Jake’s perception, and he is privy to all kinds of psychic noise. It’s unclear whether Jake is only hearing ghosts or if he hears the living as well. In either case, it’s crystal clear that Jakes’s gifts stay with him.
What was not made as clear to me while viewing the film was whether Tom’s ghost communication skills would continue. We see Samantha put on her coat and walk away, presumably to the afterlife, but maybe just to a more interesting house to haunt. Samantha’s murderers are identified, and her body found. Will Tom encounter other ghosts in need of a resolution in the future, especially since his son is also open to receive spirit messages?
I would like to believe now that Tom believes in ghosts, he will be more open and sensitive to spirits going forward. I want him to see ghost birds when he’s working on phone lines. I want him to be a warmer, more compassionate human because he understands even an ordinary life is still a life, a finite and lovely opportunity.
4 thoughts on “Stir of Echoes: thoughts on the movie”
Your perceptions here are insightful, Kat. I also wondered who else Samantha had tried to reach. Several families were in on the secret of her death and entombment in Tom’s house, so she wouldn’t contact them for help. Being in the house, it seems she latched on to anyone who could sense her. This included Jake, but apparently she couldn’t or wouldn’t communicate traumatic information to him because he’s a child. But, you’re right, Tom was the perfect candidate.
I wonder if Tom’s relationship with his son Jake will change now that he understands what Jake sees. Will Tom lean into his newfound gift or will he ignore it. I imagine that he might lean into it because for the first time in his life he felt special.
I love your first paragraph where you highlight the contrast between the two statements, “I never wanted to be famous,” and “I just never expected to be so ordinary.” That is a great summary and contrast of a life lived from a place insulated by comfort zones and boredom. That is a great setup for the character to change and grow.
I, too, would have liked to have seen more of the change in Tom after the resolution of the story. All we really learn is that they are moving away and we get that momentary glimpse of Jake’s perception of the world, which is pretty scary. I wanted to know how Tom felt about himself after it was all over. I wondered if it would lead him down a more intellectual path than he’d been on before, if he would start to self-actualize and become the man he truly wants to be instead of being frustrated that he hadn’t really done anything with his life.