Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Review: A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story
Cert: 12A / 92 mins / Dir. David Lowery / Trailer

It's hard to know what to say about David Lowery's A Ghost Story without somehow spoiling it, even though (with perhaps one exception*1) it's not the kind of movie you can actually spoil. It was only after watching it in its entirety that I understood why the trailer is so vague; it's not that the film follows suit, but the story needs the full run-time to unfold and can't really be compressed into snippets. There are single, static, dialogue-free shots in A Ghost Story which are longer than the trailer. There will be some who don't get it*2, which is as all art should be.

The story is, as you would assume, about ghosts. And while the poster and trailer's figure-in-the-sheet may seem inherently comical, this is one of the most profoundly heartbreaking films I've seen. Less of a linear haunting, more a tone-poem on memory and loss. It's thoughtful, lingering, and treats time like a tidal-lake rather than a river. Lowery slowly administers an existential anesthesia, simultaneously telling you that everything's not going to be alright, but it's alright that everything's not going to be alright. A Ghost Story is either brilliant or merely intriguing, I can't decide which on a first-pass.

Rooney Mara is quietly compelling as always (this role seems to be tailor-made for her particular skills) and Casey Affleck may just have found the role where he can take his broodiness to its peak-level. There are many other cast-members too, in smaller roles, but to go there would be to undo the magic of watching it for the first time.

For the regular, non-arthouse movie-goer (let's be honest, me), there are a couple of hurdles to overcome, of course. The 3:4 aspect ratio with the addition of rounded corners makes the film look like it's being presented through a View-Master, as does the feeling that every frame has been post-processed in Instagram. I found the first half-hour simultaneously entrancing and infuriating. But at the scene when the central, restless spirit has its first meaningful contact with… well, anyone - a wide, sad grin spread across my face and it all clicked in to place in my brain.

Although I have issues with A Ghost Story, they're my issues, not the film's. I'm just aware that this is absolutely the work which David Lowery wanted to make and that counts for a lot…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
I'm actually not sure.
It's definitely more M.R. James than James Wan, at any rate

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you can, but you won't lose much by seeing this at home.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I'm pretty certain it does.
It's hard to tell.
Which is one of the things I liked about it

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's entirely possible.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not at all.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Rooney Mara's in this, and she was in 2010's Nightmare on Elm Street remake, as was Clancy 'Opress' Brown.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Vague spoilers, highlight-to-read: And sorry to be 'that guy', but the scene with the piano which the film waits the whole film to proudly unveil is super-telegraphed. Anyone who's seen the first two Insidious films will clock that one a mile off. Although by the same token, anyone walking out of the film saying 'well I knew that was going to happen' has fundamentally misunderstood what they've watched. Yes, of course I realise how contradictory this sounds... [ BACK ]

*2 On a similar theme to Overdrive's slack attendance record from the same day, there were three walk-outs during A Ghost Story's screening. I understand this with a Saturday night audience when Annabelle: Creation is playing further down the corridor and undoubtedly lost the toss for some folks standing in the foyer, but come on people, show some discipline… [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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