A Ghost Story




Director David Lowery has really made a dramatic volte-face with his 2017 film A GHOST STORY, following on from his family-friendly adventure fantasy PETE’S DRAGON last year.  To be honest, I have no idea how to classify this new film.  What is fairly certain however is that it is completely polarizing in its effect and the proverbial ‘love it or hate it’ outcome is guaranteed.


The two main protagonists are known only by a letter.  C (Casey Affleck) is a musician living happily enough with his girlfriend M (Rooney Mara) in Irving, Texas until C is killed in a head-on auto accident.  Rising from the morgue table and draped head to toe in a white sheet, C, now a ghost, returns to his abode where he watches over M going through her grieving process.  He cannot be seen, heard or detected.  He attempts to hold the weeping M in her bed at night but she cannot feel him.  Eventually, M gets past her loss and begins to move on with her life and departs the premises for another home but C remains behind.


As the house is sold, resold and sold again he observes the ebb and flow of its occupants as Lowery switches his time frames showing the house in the future torn down to erect a skyscraper and then right back to its origins in the pioneer days with a settler marking out the ground where it will be built.  Through all this C remains motionless although in rare moments he gets irritable and tosses books from shelves and makes lights flicker.

There is sparse to non-existent dialogue for much of this stretch and anyone who thinks the title bespeaks a horror movie would be bitterly disappointed.  There is virtually no action, no special effects, no big budget eye-grabbing scenes.  Perhaps there is a sense of horror but it is very existential.  Occasionally unsettling but never scary.  There are even moments of semi-light relief such as C gazing out of the window and seeing another ghost across the street in a neighboring home.  They briefly communicate via subtitles (ghosts have their own language?) but at no time are we told why they both remain in their respective locations.  The ghost across the way indicates that she has forgotten why she is still present (has it been that long or do ghosts suffer dementia?)  Perhaps there are unresolved issues that prevent them leaving this life but there is no exposition, no exploration of any causative reasons metaphysical or otherwise.


This is a very unique film and the closest I could manage in trying to find similarities with other director’s works may be in that of Terence Malick or perhaps the avant-garde experimental Belgian director Chantel Akerman whose films often broke free of linear narratives and were heavily permeated with angst and alienation.  


I suspect that viewers would fall into only two categories with this offering.  They will either be quite mesmerized and enthralled by the strangeness and the mood of this hypnotically haunting (no pun intended) production that seems to lurch between infantile and artful in its exploration of grief, love, loss, time and existence and find it poetic, elegiac and emotional or they will be heading for the door after a short time, bored and bewildered finding only ennui and frustration from the experience. 




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