Film Review: A GHOST STORY (USA 2017) **

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A GHOST STORYIn this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.

Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, McColm Cephas Jr.

Review by Gilbert Seah
If a film is weird enough, it makes matters worse if the filmmaker makes the film even weirder. This is the case with David Lowery’s ghost story drama – an extremely difficult to follow, confusing yet the simple storied film.

Lowery is well known for having directed Disney’s PETE’S DRAGON, now doing his minimalist project, something I guess he always wanted to do.

The story follows a couple who is referred to in the film’s notes simply as C and M. C is the male (Casey Effleck) and M is the female (Rooney Mara). When the film begins, the couple are are in a suburban home about to sell their house. They are quiet, indicating perhaps though director Lowery never makes it certain, that they need more communication. They talk about a piano with M shown dragging it out to the front of the house for garbage collection.

The next scene has C in a morgue. He is next shown in a sheet with two cut out holes as eyes. C is apparently a ghost though no reason is offered. Another ghost in a sheet with two cut out holes appear later on in the. Film. Again, it makes no sense whatsoever.

The film goes on. Moving on at slower than a snail’s space, Lowery tests the audience’s patience to no end. The music is eerie, dialogue kept at a minimum. People move in and out of the house as C occasionally scares people in the house by throwing cutlery.

As if matters cannot get worse, the film shifts back and then forwards in time towards the last third of the film. There is also a scene where a bulldozer suddenly demolishes the walls of the house.

The ghost can disappear, as is assumed when the sheet crumples to the ground. It can therefore move on to heaven or better things? No one is sure.

The film contains lots of long takes – especially long takes of close ups, something not too often seen in films. An example is the re-visited poignant scene in bed where C and M face each other in bed, kiss and fall asleep. The first time the scene is performed, it lasts a full 5 minutes. There are again other scenes this slow moving.

Performance-wise, nothing much is required from Mara nor Effleck. This is a director’s piece not the actors. All the actors are required to do is brood and brood, and maybe put a sheet over themselves. Needless to say, there are no special effects required in this ghost story.

A GHOST STORY is not badly made. It is well executed, well performed and a nice mystery from start to finish, challenging the audience. It is a haunting ghost story, but not a scary one, though the art house concept will scare commercial audiences away. Many critics at the screening loved A GHOST STORY but I am not a fan.


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