Film - A Ghost Story


It's all about time as 'R' aka Ren Zelen watches A Ghost Story...

Writer/Director: David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, McColm Cephas Jr. Kenneisha Thompson, Barlow Jacobs


A Ghost Story is no conventional haunting - writer-director David Lowery doesn't concern himself with the usual movie depictions of life after death. His ghosts are merely the pretext for an unusually thoughtful examination of the fragility of life and love, and the ephemeral nature of the individual and their achievements.

A Ghost Story is Lowery's fifth feature, following his Texas crime tale Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013) which also starred Mara and Affleck as a couple. In A Ghost Story Casey Affleck, plays a music composer identified only as ‘C’, Rooney Mara stars as a woman identified only as ‘M’.

The two leads have created enough familiarity and chemistry to be able to quickly establish the depth and dynamic of their relationship at the start of this movie, before Affleck’s character’s sudden demise.

There is one close-up scene of the pair in bed, which is so intimate in nature, that it feels churlishly intrusive to watch – and yet it never tips over into actual intercourse, as one has come to expect in most other films, which usually use sex as some kind of lazy ‘shorthand’ to convey ‘intimacy’ (which of course, usually fails to convince).

Lowery’s film is simple in its narrative, but quickly jumps from the mundane into the speculative and fantastic. The couple’s house, it seems, is haunted by unexplained sporadic shimmers of light on the wall and the occasional clunk and bump in the night, but it all seems indistinct and harmless.

Then, not long into the film, C dies in a car accident. M identifies the body in the hospital, lifting the sheet and confirming it's him. She leaves. The body is alone. Then, after a few minutes, in a bold stroke, Lowery has the ‘body’ get up and follow her.

Like a child’s idea of a Halloween ghost costume, with two blank eyeholes cut out of his sheet, C rejects ‘the light’ and instead wanders out of the hospital, unseen to living humans, and returns home to see M, his widow.

He haunts the old house in which they lived together - a morose, mostly motionless figure. He sees the grief-shocked M devour an entire pie that has been left for her, in condolence, by their real estate agent (Liz Cardenas Franke), who now expects her to move out, and then he watches her vomit it up.

But in this spectral state, he has become unstuck in time and can only passively observe how M attempts to move on – time passes, she goes out on a date with another man (Barlow Jacobs), and she eventually moves out.

Before she leaves, she replicates a habit of her childhood when she moved house a lot, and used to -"write these notes. And I'd fold them up really small, and hide them in different places. So if I ever wanted to go back, there'd be a piece of me there." So, the life C knew and the woman he loved slowly slip away.

C watches as other residents of the house come and go - his frustration once turning into poltergeist activity which frightens a young family. He spots a female ghost next door. They stare at each other and sometimes speak, (through subtitles) in sad, simple phrases.

There is very little spoken dialogue in the film - the longest speech occurs during a house party, witnessed by the ghostly C, as in a lengthy monologue, a semi-drunk guest (Will Oldham) expounds on the impermanence of art and the fragility and futility of existence.

Subverting the tropes of the conventional ghost story, director and writer David Lowery has created something original and poetic. With the aid of haunting music by Daniel Hart, and pensive, austere cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo, A Ghost Story has the feel of a dream.

A wry meditation on love, attachment, loss, memory, forgetting and the nature of eternity, or a cosmic journey through enormity of existence, A Ghost Story proves to be sad and unsettling, haunting the viewer in an entirely unexpected way.

Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2017 All rights reserved.

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Image - IMDb