A Ghost Story Review

A Ghost Story
  • Directing6
  • Writing6
  • Acting7

David Lowery's A Ghost Story is a meditative look at love, legacy and loss, through the eyes of a white-sheeted ghost. While it doesn't verbally say much in its slow approach, Lowery's latest boils beneath the surface, occasionally spewing out raw emotion, but mostly just moving through the universe and existence with not a care in the world.

David Lowery‘s latest film, A Ghost Story, is a tough film to watch. Make no mistake about it. It is the definition of arthouse affair that is going to turn off most, but capture the hearts of a few. And for those few, I applaud their patience and I applaud their appreciation for experimental filmmaking.

I however, did not care for A Ghost Story as much as I thought I would. Disliking these types of films is hard, because there’s always going to be those people that defend the film and attack me, simply saying that “I didn’t get it”. And while occasionally that happens, I must come out and say that I totally got what Lowery was trying to do, but I just didn’t care for his execution.

A Ghost Story is a meditative tale of love, loss, legacy and how to know when to move on. It follows a young couple (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) as they experience love in what seems to be their first home together. Almost immediately, Affleck’s character passes away (no, that’s not a spoiler) and he returns in the form of a traditional white-sheeted ghost.

As a ghost, he wonders the home, watching Mara’s character deal with death, coping in her own ways. He eventually watches her learn to move on and continue living her life, which begins the film’s expansive trek across the unconventional, as Lowery’s experimental narrative starts to take over, bringing in time, the cosmos and just what to make of it all.

Initial comparisons could be drawn to Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life, which I think is a masterpiece of the highest order. In that film, Malick achieves greatness through his visual talents and unstructured narrative, fusing time, space and the meaning of it all through a family living their life in Texas.

While Lowery tries to do something similar, he also tries to do something very much different. A Ghost Story isn’t as interested in telling just Mara’s tale and instead focuses on the ghost and its interactions with the world around it.

It’s a bleak film that will surely depress most, because it tackles the meaning of existence through straight-forward eyes. At one point, the narration literally brings forth a random character that explains the utter pointlessness of the universe and everything within in.

And the film lingers on that notion, as the ghost struggles with accepting and realizing that it’s time to move on. Not much is said, in fact, most of the film is moved forward through music and visuals. Some of the shots definitely outstay their welcome and will surely test the patience of less-than-engaged audience members.

I can appreciate a good arthouse flick just as much as the next guy or girl, but there comes a point where I start to question every camera choice, every cut and every turn as the film comes to a screeching dead end. When slow moments that are supposed to capture the emotion of a scene become noticeably slow, then I feel that I have been removed from the film and suddenly I start asking myself, why is this film taking so long to move forward?

That’s usually an early indicator that the film just isn’t working for me, despite Lowery’s clear distinct visuals and style. A Ghost Story is a complicated film that tries to tackle some heavy themes using very little dialogue and a lot of faith from the audience. It’ll evoke occasional moments of complete emotional clarity and when those moments happen you truly do get lost in the movement of the film and connect with Lowery’s film on a transformational level.

But when those moments pass, the film quickly becomes a sluggish endeavor that quickly burns its established good graces.

I respect writer/director David Lowery for the film that he has made, but I can’t say that I liked it enough to ever revisit. A Ghost Story isn’t a film that one is supposed to “enjoy”, but it is a film that one should appreciate. I can appreciate aspects of Lowery’s filmmaking style and the subtle performances from Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, but I don’t think the film is as great as it thinks it is.


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