There’s a dispiriting sense of futility to Carter Smith’s Jamie Marks is Dead, because, as you can tell from the somewhat conspicuous title, the film revolves around a teenager who has passed away, and therefore unable to be a hero. In movies of this ilk, concerning victims of bullying, you hope – and often expect – the underdog to come out on top, to seek his vengeance and give his perpetrators their comeuppance. Yet when we see the lifeless corpse in the opening scene, it dawns on us that this can’t be the case, making for a film that at times can be deeply moving and demoralising, in a very raw, human way. Though any such good work in that department is undone thanks to the filmmaker’s inclination for superfluous surrealism.

When Jamie Marks’ (Noah Silver) body is found, few people at his school shown any sign of sympathy, for he was an unpopular kid, lonely and ostracised from his peers. Yet his death really connects with Adam (Cameron Monaghan), and his new girlfriend Gracie (Morgan Saylor), and the pair start to see Jamie’s ghost. Wanting to help in some way, Adam becomes closely entwined to the undead, wanting to help his new friend in the afterlife in a way he was never able to before.

At its core, Jamie Marks is Dead is a coming-of-age story, simply set in somewhat unique surroundings. Through the notion of grief we study a young boy who is coming to terms with unfamiliar, perplexing emotions, while sexual identity also remains a prevalent theme. However as soon as we take a turn for the supernatural, Smith’s endeavour heads steadily downhill, adopting tropes from other, supporting genres, to make for a picture that’s convoluted and attempts to cover too much ground.

While these visions of their dead classmate support this sense of grief and how these youngsters approach this unaccustomed subject at such a tender age, it does little but take you out of the narrative, mostly because the depiction of Jamie is simply not as tragic as it is in our imaginations. When he’s just a name we hear, and a corpse we see, we then craft his troubled adolescence in our own minds, picturing a devastating experience for him, while the elusive nature of his personality aids this effectively. Yet when we meet him, we lose that sense of mystery, and suddenly get to know him – and he’s almost not endearing enough. He’s too broad shouldered and handsome, and his voice too deep. He seems older and not as weak as we had imagined him to be. It also doesn’t help that Silver’s performance is the weakest of our three protagonists.

It’s a shame because Smith loses sight of what makes this picture so gripping in the early stages. The second Jamie starts appearing as a ghost we lose that sense of realism, and deviate away from the affecting, human themes. That being said, this crossover of genres and the way Smith changes the pace of his production so rapidly is creative and he should be commended for that – but regrettably what transpires is a film that struggles to move and compel you in quite the way that it should.