A Ghost Story – A Powerfully Minimalist Drama

The trailer was definitely something else. While it may not have given away a lot, it still featured an interesting premise and haunting imagery to boost.

Synopsis: Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife, only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. (Mongrel Media)

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Liz Franke

Writer: David Lowery

Director: David Lowery

Rating: PG (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 87mins

Trailer:

For sometimes and more, check out A Ghost Story on movietimes.com.

The first thing you’ll notice while watching this was how simplistic everything was. Of course the film’s budget plays a part in this but this lets the viewer focus on the plot and the characters. The image of a vintage bed sheet ghost has been highly publicized through trailers and other promotional material. This may turn away some people but it serves as an important storytelling device. A recently deceased husband named C (Affleck) returns as the aforementioned ghost.

At first glance, A Ghost Story may seem like a horror film but this isn’t quite a horror film in the traditional sense. Now a ghost, C must watch the life he was supposed to have with his wife named M (Mara) pass him by and he cannot do anything about it. This fact could be just as scary for some. As mentioned, the bed sheet is pretty basic, however, it creates a visual representation that is important to convey C’s emotion. While C, as a ghost, doesn’t speak in the film, everything else he does helps towards this (apparently the shape of the eyes change depending on the ghost’s emotions which is something that more adept viewers may notice).

One complaint that viewers may have is how slow the pace of the story is. This was mostly slow-moving film but this felt deliberate and continuing the film’s simple nature. Because of how the film was framed, using a square-shaped aspect ration in the vein of older style home videos, we get more of an intimate connection to the couple. The fact that there is very little dialogue accentuates this even further, forcing us to hone in on these characters on a deeper level. We get to see these characters be vulnerable in an understated way with one scene involving a pie perhaps standing out above the rest.

The film is short enough to digest, clocking in at around 90 minutes, and never runs its course. The story and characters are both engaging to watch as it explores the idea of life after death and of one’s legacy. The end may raise some profound questions that will force the audience to think a little. The cinematography and score were equally as engaging. The film was very well shot even with a series of extended shots, seemingly leading nowhere. Ultimately, simply seeing the ghost lurking in the background was haunting and very powerful to watch. The score set the mood nicely and helped to fill the gaps thematically in the non-dialogue scenes.

The acting was excellent throughout. The film only featured Affleck and Mara for the most part. Affleck played a prominent role in the film although we barely saw his face in the film with him playing the titular ghost. It definitely isn’t easy to act under a sheet for 90% of the film (at least I assume it was him the whole time) but he did a great job here. Despite the sheet, he still managed to portray so much emotion and making us care about him. Mara was just as great in an understated role. She also managed to portray so much emotion but in a clearer way (no sheet).

Overall, this was a great, ambitiously conceived film that, despite its simplistic nature, was able to convey so much with so little and is elevated by the performances of Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.

Score: 9/10

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