The art house may not always be your go-to place for a good time out, particularly amidst the summer blockbuster season, but let me say: it often draws paths to the answers of whatever life questions you may regularly ponder. Although A Ghost Story falls into the category of “love it or hate it,” please know that it came from A24, the remarkable independent studio which brought us life-changing works about the inner human spirit, such as Ex Machina, Room, The Lobster, Swiss Army Man, and Moonlight. Now, they did it again with this almost silent film that exploits its tiny sixty-member cast and crew.
The director/editor David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) has proven his mastery over both of his responsibilities; he follows what more experimental filmmakers do nowadays, and utilizes long uninterrupted shots to its greatest power. The camera seldom moves as it lingers on the small moments for an uncomfortable length of time—the moments he chooses to linger on supposedly communicate nothing, calling us to wait in anticipation.
Lowery can truly make each frame tell its own story under its 4:3 aspect ratio, the corners rounded off, as if watching a hopeless widow’s Instagram story. You could literally watch it on your phone for the compatibility of its visual style! He stated before how he “wanted to make something small and tiny and handmade,” (Filmmaker Magazine) and he well and beyond fulfills what he hinted at, as he creates such a cold environment inside the claustrophobic house the weary spirit refuses to leave. Especially in the large-scale moments, such as a walk in the grassy plain, Lowery keeps things as intimate as possible.
The ghost’s simple design intrigues the senses: the familiar white bedsheet with holes cut in for the eyes creates some hauntingly surreal imagery. Nobody can see him there under the sheets from his hospital deathbed other than us the spectators, turning the already unsettling vision of a white strolling figure all the more eerie.
You can for certain love the accompanying musical score by Daniel Hart, (The Exorcist TV series) whose work echoes against itself as if the purpose of music could never be understood until you croaked. I highly recommend buying the soundtrack.
However, like other new directors given a limited $100,000 budget, several issues still blare hot amidst the triumphs. Spoilers out of the way, the third act features time travel elements that receive too little time spent on sensical explanations. Its “open to interpretation” story gets too carried away with itself for public appeal. The ethnical casting decisions also causes distance between reality, as explorations of the limited cultural space are brilliant, yet Whitewashed: an Americanized Mexican family structure comes to mind, as well as a tribe of savage Native Americans. Likewise, two White drop-dead gorgeous celebrity A-listers play the lead roles, and barely any information is communicated about what these two lovers think of one another.
Rather, the aftermath of the death triggers the most empathy. If you have ever been in love or felt in love, the silent loneliness each individual faces will deeply resonate. The eerie nature of a widow being watched by her dead husband skyrockets in sorrow; you too want their wants due to actions rather than words.
The two leads, both together and apart, allow you to feel as hollow as the spirit on the poster. The husband, played by Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Manchester by the Sea) wears the cotton sheet throughout 95% of the runtime, stunningly sad in posture just by staring with his misty nonexistent eyes. As for the wife, played by Rooney Mara, (Carol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) you feel her pain just by her eating a full pie until she pukes. When close up, she has no need to give a dramatic cry-face to express your tears as she listens to her former-husband’s original music.
Lowery understands his craft in blocking actors, with strict emphasis on posture, such as when the live husband cuddles his wife in bed or strokes her sobbing body with his cloaked, disembodied hand. He can generate the most out of each performance, even if one of them only exists to spill out philosophies around the theme.
Lowery has demonstrated his ultimate strength as a director in constructing this effective, nonpreachy message. It helps you reconsider the importance of letting others know the impact of their legacy before breathing one last time, so they won’t resort to imagining a miserable afterlife most everyone in the world fears.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
A Ghost Story. A24. Web. <http://aghoststory.movie/>.
“A Ghost Story.“ Digital image. A24. Web. <https://a24films.com/films/a-ghost-story>.
“A Ghost Story (2017) Full Cast & Crew.” IMDb. Amazon. Web. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6265828/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm>.
Raup, Jordan. “Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara Secretly Shot a New Feature With David Lowery This Summer.” The Film Stage. Disqus, 22 Nov 2016. Web. <https://thefilmstage.com/news/casey-affleck-and-rooney-mara-secretly-shot-a-new-feature-with-david-lowery-this-summer/>.