Sunday, September 24, 2017

REVIEW: A Ghost Story

The only certainty in life is death. But what comes after? With his latest film, David Lowery poses an answer to this question that provides even more room for thought. It may be titled "A Ghost Story", but it's also a love story and so much more.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a couple simply known as C and M. They live in a quaint suburban home as C tries to make a living as a musician. But one day, he dies tragically in a car accident just outside their home. M is distraught, consumed by her grief and loneliness. C returns home in spectral form however, hoping to re-connect with his wife. She can't see him however, though she senses his presence. Unfortunately, the pain and memories are too much to bear. M plans to move out of their home, leaving C desperate to break through to her before it's too late.

The experience of watching C's subsequent odyssey is one that delivers endless surprises. In the first act, the heartbreaking tragedy of its love story is presented with stark austerity, emphasizing the quiet solitude of loss and the overwhelming impact of grief. Free from hysterics, Lowery instead channels these feelings through his evocative use of music and Rooney Mara's delicate performance.

But Lowery does an interesting thing with this heartbreak, turning the focus towards C's ghost in the most fascinating of ways. It truly becomes "A Ghost Story" of unusual depth, gradually evolving into a bleak contemplation of the meaning of life and the afterlife. If Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" was his faithful homage to the master Terrence Malick, then "A Ghost Story" is his graduation from his apprenticeship. With this effort he has truly found his voice, exploring an inspired take on cosmic existentialism to rival "The Tree of Life".

Indeed, "A Ghost Story" gets deeply philosophical - with a strikingly nihilistic outlook - but there's also an immediacy to the emotions that comes from his experimentation with recognizable genre tropes. Our protagonists' home is essentially a haunted house for example. But the haunting invokes despair rather than fear, as it plays off the "unfinished business" concept. Additionally, the film confronts the cruelty of time in a manner typical of sci-fi films. And these moments are so visceral that they put every 2017 film I've described as "profound" or "breathtaking" to shame.

In essence, "A Ghost Story is very sad, but it's also richly satisfying. Few filmmakers could take such a potentially comical premise (Casey Affleck haunts Rooney Mara dressed in a sheet with two holes for eyes) and make something so stunning. "A Ghost Story" is therefore a testament to the unlimited potential of a resourceful, visionary director. With minimalist production design, unshowy cinematography (i.e. a modest 1.33:1 aspect ratio) and little dialogue, Lowery conveys a story of tremendous beauty and power. "A Ghost Story" is a little film with grand ambitions. And it's easily one of the year's best.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this review now I have clear idea about this. So many people want to read this and after your review they will get some idea whether to read this or not!!