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.
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.
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