Film Review – ‘A Ghost Story’ (2017)

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Contains Spoilers

In many conversations I have had at a local level it has become apparent that several cinema-goers have left within the first thirty minutes of ‘A Ghost Story‘, just as the premise and details of the film have set firm in their establishment. To me, this seems a little off, a little too judgemental. Surely anyone that has seen the trailer (or even the poster for that matter) will know what they are getting themselves into before the first frames of the film are projected. We all know that this is an art-house film where Casey Affleck is bed sheet style ghost, right?

A Ghost Story‘ is daring in its delivery. It has a slow pace, that is perhaps too slow. As a result of this, I could see why someone would feel shortchanged by the time of the end credits. However, at least it goes places you won’t be expecting. We begin to fully understand Rooney Mara‘s character and her grief. We get to appreciate the lasting remnants of Affleck’s character’s life; the celebrated parts, his music, and the hidden parts, his human connections, and relationships. Just as this starts to come into a clear focus we are then taken other places.

For those who have already seen the film, you will know that there’s a monologue made by a character during the party scene. It is outlining the parameters of the narrative. It feels just a bit too knowing and bit too patronizing in explaining an already obvious concept. For me, this was too much. One thing I will say though is that it is just a moment on screen. We get to see glimpses of a lot of different people’s lives in passing. So, therefore, I can forgive it somewhat.

That aside, the restrictive aspect ratio, the minimal score, and the simplicity of the premise makes for a unique viewing experience. There’s a scene that is getting a lot of hype online, it’s the one where Rooney Mara eats a pie. We, like Affleck’s character, are invited to watch this happen. Mara’s performance is naturalistic.

A Ghost Story‘ may be a film that translates well as a DVD / Blu-Ray release. It kind of demands an intimate relationship with the viewer. We are invited to stand mostly still and witness events in a single space. There are some interesting ideas brought forward for discussion. These are chiefly about how the past makes impressions in the future.

The problem with this film is that it tries too hard to explain where the narrative is going, and the limits of the idea of single narrative cinema. David Lowery seeks to push these limits to extremes, and the ambition of the film can be applauded. This won’t be for everyone. However, if you are going into it having seen the trailer, give it a chance and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Zach Roddis| [rating=4]

Drama, Fantasy, Romance | USA, 2016 | 12A | 11th August 2017 (UK) | Picturehouse Entertainment | Dir.David Lowery | Casey, Affleck, Rooney Mara,