A Ghost Story(2017)
It's all about time.
Casey Affleck posthumously returns to his home as a spirit and tries to reconnect with his former lover (Rooney Mara) in this David Lowery drama.... More
"Lowery's meticulously sparse narrative contemplates a spectral figure who was once a man (Affleck). Prematurely taken from this Earth, he makes his way toward his former home, where he is fated to remain forevermore. Shrouded in a white sheet, he observes the lament of his grief-stricken lover (Mara). Bearing unseen witness to her pain, the wisp stands sentry for years to come, interacting only with time as it hurtles further and further forward, the remnants of his humanity quietly evaporating." (Sundance Film Festival)Hide
BY Matt Glasby Flicks Writer
One of the – many – things that marks David Lowery’s A Ghost Story out from the pack is that it centres on a songwriter (Casey Affleck) who’s actually pretty good. The composition he plays halfway through the film is, in fact, Dark Rooms’ I Get Overwhelmed, a work of anxious, soaring beauty. Shame the film can’t reach such heights.... More
Indeed, the thoughtful qualities that have led some to call Lowery’s work a masterpiece are the same ones that will leave others cold. Affleck plays C, married to Rooney Mara's M. She wants to move away from their isolated home, he wants to stay, they argue a lot, but the point becomes rather moot when he dies and comes back as a ghost.
The image of an Oscar-winning actor walking around in a sheet is visually striking. Plus, a bit of cover won't exactly hurt Affleck after the accusations of impropriety that have dogged him this year. Mara is glowing in her grief; and Andrew Droz Palermo’s camerawork is full of long, lovely shots of C looking forlornly out the window.
But as the philosophical treatise on death it clearly means to be, A Ghost Story falls someway short. It's full of memorable imagery – Ghosty McGhostface whizzing back to colonial times, say, or playing poltergeist with the house's new inhabitants once M has moved on – but you're never quite sure what it all means, if anything.
Perhaps it's best thought of as a beautiful music video eked out to feature length. Suggested title? I Get Underwhelmed.Hide
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A Ghost Story
BY cinemusefilm superstar
Although it has an... More unsettling timeline, the story itself can be pared down to a few simple elements. We enter by eavesdropping on a young couple who are packing to leave their modest home. Known only as C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara), she is keen to leave, he wants to stay. What happens next messes with our notions of time, space, death and beyond. Within seconds, we see him dead at the wheel of a crashed car. We watch her identify the body then walk out of a morgue. The camera remains fixed on the sheet until it slowly sits up. We follow it back to the house where it can only watch M in her stunned grief, unseen and unable to reach her. In a series of rapid time compressions, she packs and leaves, and is replaced by a procession of other families until the house becomes derelict and abandoned. All the time C watches alone. After a bulldozer flattens the house and a high-rise is built, we go back to when the property was an open prairie where a family of 19th century settlers are slaughtered by natives. C watches them decompose, still riveted to the place he too died. He returns to the time and place of his death to see himself and M arrive in their new home.
This unusual story unfolds from the viewpoint of a ghost. Once you are OK with that premise, everything else begins to make sense, depending on what you invest in the experience. When you let go of the usual paranormal genre tropes, you sense that ghosts occupy space without temporal boundaries and they do no harm. You also realise that cinema itself has conditioned our notions of linear time and physical place. Nobody has been there to report back, so who can refute the circularity of time after death? Nor do we know if ghosts can materially connect with the living or if they simply ‘belong’ at the place they became.
This low-budget high-risk film is one of the most innovative you will find in its genre but opinions are clustered at the extremes. Despite having a stellar duo in Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, acting makes a limited contribution to what this film achieves. The silent Affleck is mostly under the sheet and Mara is brilliant for the time we see her. There are no CGI tricks and the film is shown through a round-corner square screen that is retro low-tech with editing and pace to unnerve you. Patience and faith are both needed and rewarded. The unbroken five-minute take of M sitting on her kitchen floor devouring a pie with C watching helplessly is a painfully exquisite portrait of transfixed grief. Surviving that scene can be a portal for a tale from the timeless beyond.Hide
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