#REVIEW: “A GHOST STORY”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
I am officially declaring the summer of 2017 to be the Season of Awesome Indies. Adding to a year already rife with exceptional independent films comes Writer/Director David Lowery’s A Ghost Story: a Movie whose main character looks like my 10-year-old nephew’s last Halloween costume. The idea that a ghost’s corporeal form is a sheet with two holes for eyes seems almost too juvenile for a Movie as complex as A Ghost Story, but rest assured this Movie not only works but will exceeds preconceived expectations.
C (Casey Affleck) is a struggling musician who dies in front of the rented house he shares with his wife M (Rooney Mara). After M silently says goodbye to her husband’s corpse in the morgue, C rises cloaked in the sheet that covered his dead body. He doesn’t float but walks out of the hospital and through fields to his former home and begins what will become his full-time occupation of watcher. Trapped by the walls of his former home unable or perhaps unwilling to leave, C is relegated to the role of observer of M’s grief and eventually of her ability to do what he cannot: move on. Over time he learns to harness his energies to affect the world around him but it makes little difference on his internment. Eventually even time becomes fluid as years pass in a blink and the inhabitants of his home move through his unlife.
The silent performance of C’s ghost is interesting in that due to the simple sheet costume, we are unable to read Affleck’s eyes or subtle body language. Despite these limitations, the audience is never in doubt as to C’s despair or anger as he watches M works through her own silent grief.
A Ghost Story is about the circular nature of life, death, and grief. Even though he is a ghost even C must learn to grieve and let go. Watching a ghost go through the seven stages of grief may seem like an odd premise for a movie, but Lowery’s script makes it work. The longest monologue in the entire Movie comes not from Affleck or Mara but rather from Will Oldham’s Prognosticator who waxes on about the metaphysical unimportance of our existence.
With its relatively short runtime the long quiet moments in A Ghost Story become even more interesting. Lowery and Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo spend long minutes lingering over passages others would edit down or dismiss as uninteresting. Take the scene where M gives into her grief and eats most of a pie: the camera, like the ghostly C, follows her from the counter, to the floor, to the bathroom but doesn’t rush her or cut away to each destination. Instead, Lowery allows the deep pathos of the scene to play out in real time without finessing Mara’s already strong performance.
Daniel Hart has once again teamed-up with his Pete’s Dragon Director to create a score magnificent in its subtlety. Hart’s music supports the story but doesn’t commit the all too common movie sin of trying to overtake the narrative.
If this review of A Ghost Story contains more superlatives than normally found in my reviews, it is merely because this addition to the Summer of Awesome Indies is that good. From the unique Polaroid-like aspect ratio to the frank reminder that grief lives within all of us, A Ghost Story is the perfect cure to all the big-budget action movies opening this weekend.
Mongrel Media release A GHOST STORY on Friday, July 21, 2017.