Quick Hit: A bit pretentious, but still beautiful in its way.
When describing this story, you’re left with a plot that is incredibly simple. A man dies, and he haunts his house. That man is “C” (played by Casey Affleck). He leaves behind a wife, “M”, played by Rooney Mara. But what keeps this movie from being a typical haunted house, or person contacts lover from the dead (like Ghost or White Noise) is the fact that the ghost is simply a sheet covering Casey Affleck. You heard me right – a sheet.
This could easily be played for comedy, and at times, there is a dark, dark (I’m talking pitch black) humor streak that the film runs into, even venturing a joke about its own pretentiousness. For the most part though, the film allows the ghost to be portrayed as any other, and gives the bonus effect of not ruining any of the ghosts total effect by having it be terrible special effects (I’m looking at you Personal Shopper). While the premise is simple, and the costume is as well, the heady ideas that are portrayed within this film are definitely not.
There could be mountains of papers written on the meanings behind A Ghost Story. I’m not here to dissect the film too heavily, but I will say that a couple of deeper meanings are readily apparent. One is the effect that houses and memories have on people throughout our lives. Another is really obvious – the concept of death and what it means to a person that dies too soon. We rarely consider that our lives could end every moment – we start our days, eat our breakfast, work our jobs, write our reviews, and go about our lives. I think that director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) gave us his thesis in a scene where “C”’s ghost communicates with another neighboring ghost. “I’m waiting for someone, but I’m not sure who” he ventures, and then the scene moves on.
The showstopper within A Ghost Story is the cinematography. Many of the scenes are blindingly beautiful, to the point that you have trouble looking away. At times, great, sweeping long shots are used to portray the passing of time around “C”. Sometimes, like when his ghost first emerges, or when “M” feasts on the pie – these long shots make you uncomfortable for exactly how long they go on. Others, like the shot that starts on the lawn and works to the car where “C’s” body lies, are a masterclass in filmmaking. If you watch this movie for anything, enjoy the ambience and the shots.
The movie is not without its flaws. The movie can drag a bit at times, but that’s to be a bit expected, since we’re watching a man in a sheet for ninety minutes. Along with that, there is very little said, and the action scenes (if you can call them such) are even more sparse than the dialogue. This isn’t necessarily a movie for immense entertainment, so much as it is to make a point and deliver a message. This gives the whole project a bit of a pretentious feel that the film never totally escapes from.
It’s for these reasons that I liked the film, but didn’t love it overall (to borrow Shannon’s terminology). That will land A Ghost Story solidly in the “B-”. category.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"