Original, unorthodox and thought-provoking, A Ghost Story is a haunting, yet meaningful cinematic experience.
After taking on a bigger project with last year’s Pete’s Dragon, director David Lowery is back to his indie best with his new film, A Ghost Story, which is sure to be the most pleasantly strange movie you’ll see this year.
The film follows M (Rooney Mara) and C (Casey Affleck), a couple living in a small house in the countryside. Shortly into the process of moving, a tragedy strikes the two which cause a ghost to appear in their house. The ghost witnesses the fallout of this tragedy before venturing on a journey through time that takes it through the past, present and future.
Whilst that may sound very vague and confusing, the less you know going into A Ghost Story the better. The story is very much told visually with very little dialogue to be found. This, however, isn’t an issue as not only is the film shot beautifully in a smaller 4:3 ratio, it is also directed extremely well by Lowery.
The film is made up primarily of long, quiet scenes that allow you time to really focus on what is happening. This makes for a greater connection with the characters on screen and helps to evoke some strong emotional responses. Whilst these long shots work very well for a lot of the film, there are a couple of moments where a shot tends to go on for far too long; well after the point of the scene has already been made.
Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara give excellent, subtle performances that rely a lot on their psychical acting ability, considering that they both say very little. Mara, in particular, has a few long take scenes in which she brilliantly portrays what M is going through without it feeling as if she’s just acting for a movie. It is a testament to both the actors and that these two very human, realistic performances are able to create a connection between the audience and the characters despite the lack of dialogue.
It is worth noting that, despite the title, A Ghost Story in not a horror film. In fact, the movie stands on its own in many respects due to both its unique visual style and unorthodox plot. It does, however, take some horror tropes and almost pokes fun at them. For example, the ghost will knock down books or cause lights to flicker. The simple design of the ghost, which resembles a child’s Halloween costume, is very effective as it means that when used in different scenarios, it can look funny, scary or sad, which again adds to the visual storytelling that the film does so well.
A Ghost Story has a beautiful score by Daniel Hart that really helps set the melancholic feel that the film creates overall. Swells in the soundtrack at certain moments really ramp up the emotion whilst other quieter moments are accompanied by more serene tracks that epitomise the enormity of the film’s message.
Getting across the overall message of the film, that being one of purpose and meaning, is mostly handled very well with character actions and handy camera work successfully conveying what Lowery is trying to say. However, there is one dialogue heavy scene later on that sticks out as, despite being well written, it attempts to explain what the meaning of the film is. This felt unnecessary as the visual storytelling up until that point had already been so good.
A Ghost Story is one of the most original films to hit screens this year. Despite its strangeness and unorthodoxy, it is an incredibly thought-provoking, moving film that will be sure to stay with you for a long time.
A Ghost Story, directed by David Lowery, is distributed in the UK by Picturehouse Entertainment, certificate 12a.