Tuesday, 25 July 2017


Madman Films

In his fourth feature, writer-director David Lowery tells a story of grief; one uniquely told (as the title suggests) from the point of view of the deceased. 'Not so unique,' you say. 'Jerry Zucker's 1990 film Ghost did just that.' Well, yes. Kind of.

But Lowery's film is no supernatural drama where a dead man is helped pass over to the 'other side' by a streetwise, sassy-mouthed psychic. For one, it's near dialogue-free.

When Casey Affleck's character dies in an automobile accident, he returns to the weatherboard house he shared with his wife (Rooney Mara), watching over her as she mourns his death, eats pie, and goes about her life. Did I mention that he does so not as the visage of Affleck but as a man draped in a heavy white sheet, with black spots where his eyes should be?

Depending on your disposition, A Ghost Story will appear as either a silly and tedious exercise, or a profound and moving experience (or perhaps somewhere in between); Lowery's languid though only 90-minute film told from the perspective of the ghost, whose experience of time is both fleeting and eternal. The cinematography (by Andrew Droz Palermo) and score (Daniel Hart) add to the elegiac nature of Lowery's film, which is somewhat Terrence Malick-esque though without possessing the whispering voice-overs or (thankfully) twirling femmes (and Hart's score is more synthesizers than swelling symphonies).

As the days and the seasons pass, his wife eventually moves on and out; selling their home and leaving him behind. Another family moves in, then others. Years pass. The house is demolished and futuristic skyscrapers are built, but the ghost persists. Or he does until his loneliness becomes unbearable and he takes a flying leap off the building.

Can ghosts commit suicide? Perhaps not, since he materializes in pioneer days as a settler family pegs out where their homestead will stand. Time passes and before long we're right back where we started, witnessing events we've already seen through Casey and Rooney's eyes, but this time from the p.o.v of the ghost (as they say on Doctor Who, time is a great big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey).

A meditation on time, A Ghost Story asks whether, like great art, does love – or grief – endure? Is that our legacy as humans? Or, ultimately, does nothing matter? Again, your world outlook may determine your answer but there's no denying the uniquely beautiful way in which the questions have been framed.

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