David Lowery (director)
Picture House Entertainment (studio)
11 August 2017 (released)
09 August 2017
It’s a brave move for an actor fresh from an Oscar win to take on a role for which he is required to speak relatively little and wear a white sheet for much of the running time. It could also be considered dead easy. Regardless, Casey Affleck stars in A Ghost Story from Pete’s Dragon director David Lowery.
A young couple C (Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) are living in a suburban ranch house. They are content though they have different aspirations with C wanting to develop his music and stay in the house, with M looking to move elsewhere. Everything however is shattered when C is killed in a car accident. After M identifies the body, leaving quickly, C sits up wearing the white sheet he was covered with, the classic depiction of a ghost. The black oval holes for eyes have a ghastly emptiness.
He finds himself making his way back to the house, where over time he sees M come to terms, and move on. He doesn’t and he remains in the house and land as it is occupied through the ages, by renters, owners and developers.
He’s alone save for another ghost whom he spies in the neighbouring house, and communicates with. Though that ‘companion’ is lost one day after the houses are demolished and they are left on top of the ruins. A realisation strikes C’s neighbour and the sheet just drops.
Shot very quickly in 1:33 aspect ratio with rounded edges A Ghost Story looks very impressive. The unusual – these days – aspect ratio denies the performers space so confines the action. This makes them look larger in the frame and forces that perspective on the viewer. This works equally well with both the close-ups and longer shots. The latter demonstrated as a covered Affleck walks across fields to his home and the later stages of the film with the future cityscapes.
Lest you think this film is just a technical caprice, there’s also palpable human level to it. Even covered up Affleck cuts a confused, longing and pathetic figure, as he wanders about his allotted space: Out of place and out of time. It needn’t have been that way as there’s a glimpse after he rises that he had the opportunity to move on.
There’s long periods of silence so music and sound are integral and generally well combined. They can also be trying and which leads to the ‘pie scene’. Grieving for C, M starts to eat a pie. Starting off with a few mouthfuls, she gradually crams and then gorges. It’s a powerful scene of profound loss, isolation and despair but it tries the patience and for this writer was right on the limit.
Not completely satisfying on all levels, A Ghost Story is nevertheless a thoughtful and rewarding film and well worth watching, at the cinema.