A Ghost Story (2017) – Review

Director: David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

The Overview
In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife. (Source: IMDb)

The Good
A concept which may seem laughable on paper, and indeed a concept which is impossible to explain to people without getting the response “Wait, what?!”, A Ghost Story is in reality one of the most tender, beautiful, and melancholic films in recent memory. Being able to transform what is an unusual and somewhat comical idea into something as beautiful as this has to be applauded, and there’s no way my review, or anyone else’s for that matter, will be able to do it justice, but I’ll give it a shot. 

This film won’t be for everyone, and if someone flat-out hated it, I wouldn’t be surprised or shocked, but regardless of opinion, it is a film which demands to be spoken about and one which lingers in your mind for a long time afterwards. At the time of writing this, two days have passed since I saw it, and it is all I have thought about and I am absolutely desperate to see it again. 

The image of a sheet-covered Casey Affleck which has dominated the posters, is a striking image on its own, and the constant presence of this spectral being on the screen is unsettling, unusual and ultimately beautiful. It is essentially a last-minute kids Halloween costume, but there is gorgeous simplicity in this stunning imagery, and against all the odds, Casey Affleck puts in a performance which is simply mesmerising. You might have to take my word on this, or let the film speak for itself, but the performance Affleck gives, with no facial expressions and no words, is simply breath-taking. There is purpose in his movements, a deep sadness and longing sheathed by his ghostly form; the ability to create such genuine emotion with movement alone, feels appropriately other-worldly. It is something I can’t quite put my finger on, but it is impossible to take your eyes off him.

Rooney Mara is equally incredible in this film, and this is easily her finest performance since Carol. Whilst she doesn’t have a sheet to contend with, she also doesn’t have many lines so has to sell this performance with her expressions and movements. The much-talked about “pie scene” is a devastating portrayal of grief, an unflinching 4 minute long scene of Mara eating a pie with a ferociousness and a sadness that doesn’t need words. It might test the patience of many, and indeed 4 minutes feels like a lifetime, but it also forces you to feel the emotion in a very raw and genuine way. The camera doesn’t move, there’s no cuts, its just her, outwardly expressing her grief in a very real and human way. It’s astonishing in its simplicity and beautiful in its execution, much like the rest of the film.

Visually, this film is absolutely gorgeous, with the boxy 1:33 aspect ratio forcing you into close contact with the characters and the emotion of the story. There’s a noticeable Malick influence in it, with the long takes leaving you somewhat uncomfortably in the events as they unfold, but there is a necessity in this. It is a simple film, with a pace that won’t suit all tastes, but it allows you to spend time with it, it is contemplative, meditative almost, and the pacing and long takes suit this perfectly.

It’s a relatively short film which somehow supernaturally manages to feel simultaneously like a vast expanse of time, and a short film. It feels like time stops at certain moments and then accelerates at others and it completely takes your breath away. It is one of those films that renders you unable to move as the credits start rolling, I didn’t want to leave this film, and I almost immediately wanted to watch it again afterwards. 

The Bad
I loved everything about this film so it is hard to put anything here, but it is worth noting beforehand that this film will not be for everyone. It’s slow pace might test the patience of some, and certainly anyone going in expecting a horror will be thoroughly disappointed!

The Verdict
I saw this movie and you should too. It was probably fairly obvious already, but I adored this move, and it has easily found a place in my top 10 of the year so far. It is deeply affecting, visually arresting, and emotionally complex, dealing with weighty themes in a beautifully simple way. Whilst many films explore the notion of grief, A Ghost Story switches things round, so the notion of grieving is seen through the eyes of those who have passed, and there is something so deeply sad about this. Whilst those left alive have the tools they need to move on and leave their grief behind, those who have passed are left empty in the void, desperately searching for something, anything. A Ghost Story is utterly unique, completely beautiful and simply astonishing; one of 2017’s must-see movies. 

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One comment

  1. “This film won’t be for everyone.” I haven’t seen it yet, but this is the 2nd review I’ve read today that made that same statement. That makes me want to watch it more than I already did. Glad you enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to.

    Liked by 1 person

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