“A Ghost Story” is written and directed by David Lowery and stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. The film is about a man who is killed in a car accident, which inevitably turns him into a ghost that watches life move on after his passing.
This is a film that I have been very excited to see, as the reviews were glowing out the gates, and the trailer was one that promised a film that looked beautifully unique while also spoiling very little of what the movie really is about. So, I came in not knowing what type of movie to really expect, but with expectations rather high.
David Lowery has truly written and directed a film completely unique from pretty much any movie that exists, as “A Ghost Story” uses approaches to storytelling that, while straining at times, always feels incredibly rewarding. Lowery relies on ridiculously minimalistic dialogue, and it absolutely works in the movie’s favor, as the pure imagery and subtleties of a scene come totally alive and to the foreground of every pivotal moment in the movie. There are probably 10 to 15 minute gaps throughout this 90-minute movie where there is not a single piece of dialogue given that I could understand, and in these spans I always knew and felt what was going on throughout every scene, and that is due to Lowery’s exceptional eye at making emotions and ideas pop out of the smallest of moments.
The lead performances from both Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are terrific, with Mara specifically really packing an emotional punch with her incredible portrayal of a wife dealing with loss. As with this entire movie, her performance is very nuanced and very laid back, but she makes it work, as does Affleck, but in a much different way. When Affleck is shown on screen, he is tremendous, but he is also great as the ghost, which is literally a cloth over Affleck’s body. Yes, this is supposedly Affleck the entire time, and if it is, he does an awesome job of making the ghost have emotions simply with the way he is standing, and this power makes something that sounds absolutely ridiculous feel totally impactful and legitimately haunting, pun intended.
The cinematography by Andrew Doz Palermo is stunning, as there are numerous shots that hold emotional poignancy simply on their own, as Palermo has a way of holding on scenes for just the right amount of time in order to get the full impact out of them. “A Ghost Story” is shot in a square aspect ratio, and while it’s hard to pinpoint why, this film ratio never feels in the way or unnecessary, in fact quite the contrary. Lowery’s decision to use this ratio makes the movie almost seem homemade in a sense, and there are still plenty of incredible wide shots to behold even with these constraints. Also, the use of the song “I Get Overwhelmed” by Dark Rooms is exceptional and makes for one of the most powerful scenes in the entire film.
There is something special about what David Lowery has created here, as it is a bold and totally original look on a concept that has been done numerous times in movies before it. Looking at life after someone has gone isn’t something new, but Lowery makes this theme feel completely original and fresh, and he also makes some very strong cases and points for what exactly the meaning of anything really is. “A Ghost Story” starts small and becomes something so much bigger, and while this could have been a major downfall, Lowery does such a great job that he makes this one of the film’s biggest strengths. I absolutely loved just how far and out there Lowery was willing to take his ideas, and he makes them scary, chilling, exciting, and almost empowering at points, and all while doing it in a style like no one else before him.
The pie scene. I can’t and won’t spoil what this scene means in the context of the movie, but holy shit the pie scene needs to be discussed, as it is one of the best scenes of 2017 thus far.
I do wish that Lowery more clearly solved some questions that he seems to leave totally up to the interpretation of the audience. I know that is his point, and it had me thinking about this film for hours, but I do wish that it was somewhat less ambiguous, at least with some minor themes.
The biggest problem in the entire film is a scene I will call the monologue, as it totally sticks out from the rest of the movie in style and delivery, and I do not think it worked whatsoever. The content of this scene feels way too on the nose as if things are now being spoon fed to the audience just so that we are clear what message the movie is trying to make. Sure, this sounds contradictory to my first flaw, but I would have liked more subtle hints to the overall meaning, and that is not what this scene is, not one bit.
“A Ghost Story” is a wonderfully unique look at themes of death and loss and is powered by stunning cinematography, a terrific direction, great performances, and the use of visual storytelling over any dialogue. While there is one scene I would love to be completely changed, this is truly a film that creates an experience like no other, a movie that takes you on a journey the whole way and completely sucks you into its world, and “A Ghost Story” really had me in awe by the time the credits rolled.
What did you think of “A Ghost Story”? Comment below with your thoughts.