Film review: A Ghost Story

A child in the grand scheme of life.

BY John Blackburn

There’s no doubt that someday we will all cease to exist at some point in the future. But what happens after that? What happens to the memories about us from the majority of the world, or to the smallest fraction of people who we love? Director/writer David Lowery explores this concept in his recently released film ‘A Ghost Story’.

Indie singer-songwriter C, played by Casey Affleck, lives in an old urban house with his wife M, played by Rooney Mara. When C dies of a car accident, he becomes a ghost in the form of a simple children’s Halloween ghost costume, and begins to learn what happens with the area of his house he adores, what happens to his wife without him around, and of course, the very meaning of existence.

There’s a perfect abstract and ghostly feel in this film thanks to the amazing isolated cinematography in 1:33:1 aspect ratio, non-linear editing, perfect transitions, and an Interstellar-inspired soundtrack from Daniel Hart. Also, there’s minimal to no dialogue throughout most of the feature, but there are some great scenes told through Affleck and Mara’s amazing performance and Lowery’s fantastic direction. For example, the film cuts between the two moments when Mara listens to C’s experimental pop track – one when C was alive (heard in clear sound surrounded by warm lights), and one in the present where C has died (heard through empty headphone speakers surrounded in cool colours). While listening to the song after his death, she reaches her hand out to the unseen ghost of C, as if she remembers him while listening.

Affleck is incredible as an experimental artist who appreciates old stuff, like a piano that came with the house, because of “its history”. He plays the ghost for the majority of the film- an observer in his past life and a learner on the meaning of life, all the while performing in stiff motion that makes the ghostliness more unique. And in theory, since the ghost appeared in a child-like Halloween costume, it might represent C as a child in the grand scheme of life.

However, there is one scene in the middle of the film, where a guy at a party rambles on and on about the main message we’re supposed to learn- it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film’s tone. It feels like that scene was made for audience members who wouldn’t get the message, but its surrounded in a feature made for artistic film lovers who would create ideas about the film’s themes based on its subtle visual delivery. If the writers had cut the ramble, or kept it short and let the rest of the well-structured visual storytelling play out, I think the audience would have grasped the morale of the film.

Aside from that, it really is a fascinating film about what happens to everything we hold dear when we are no longer around. It does become depressing, but it’s an experience that has me mind blown when I left the cinema. If you love abstract art, you’ll adore this for sure.

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