“A Ghost Story” is a thoughtful meditation on ‘the other side’ of grief

Published by , Author: Kait Vukovich - Rocket Contributor, Date: October 17, 2017
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It’s finally October, and if you’re anything like me, you celebrate Halloween by curling up on the couch to watch your favorite horror films. In honor of one of my favorite holidays, I’ll be reviewing one scary, suspenseful, or otherwise spooky movie for you each week for the whole month of October. This week’s film is actually a supernatural drama that’s not the least bit scary, but I’ve been anxiously awaiting it for months now, so I just couldn’t pass it up.

I was super intrigued by “A Ghost Story” from the moment I saw the trailer this past spring, so when I found out that it had recently been released on digital streaming services, I didn’t waste any time getting my hands on it. Rooney Mara (one of my favorite actresses, by the way) and Casey Affleck star as M and C, respectively, a married couple who gets separated when C dies suddenly in a car crash. Affleck spends the rest of the movie under a plain white bedsheet while C, now a ghost, watches over M from the comfort of their own home as she mourns his loss.

If this film sounds weird to you, I’ll be honest, I can’t even disagree. “A Ghost Story” is unlike any other film I’ve ever seen—but for me personally, that’s a good thing here. Content-wise, it contains a five-minute-long scene devoted entirely to a pie, subtitles for the silent method of communication C has with a fellow ghost and a surprising cameo by a pop star who just recently made a very well-received comeback. However, what struck me the most was the film’s stylistic individuality. Director David Lowery made the bold decision to shoot the film in an aspect ratio of 1:33:1 (very few films made in the 21st century deviate from the standard 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 ratios; only Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” comes to mind), in an effort to visually communicate C’s eternally trapped state to the audience. I also wanted to mention the gorgeous cinematography and set design as particular standouts.

I will note that I’m not sure that this film is one that everyone will enjoy. I watched “A Ghost Story” with my best friend-slash-roommate, who had a particular bone to pick with the long, drawn-out shots: “That lasted a solid four minutes…if you think about how long four minutes actually is, it’s a long time.” Additionally, there’s very little dialogue, save for a few scenes that actually feature more than two living characters. As an aspiring screenwriter, you’d think this would bother me, but I honestly didn’t mind it at all—probably because I can recognize that this is the exact type of film that doesn’t need a lot of dialogue.

It’s easy to laugh at the image of Casey Affleck just standing there in a white sheet akin to that of Charlie Brown on Halloween, but in the many moments of silence in this film, I realized how depressing the very concept at the heart of it is. When someone passes away, we expect that their loved ones will become overwhelmed with grief. We do see this happen to M, of course, but Lowery did something really powerful as a filmmaker by turning this trope on its head and exploring all possible answers to the question: What if the person who dies also experiences grief over their lost life?

If you’re a cinephile like myself, “A Ghost Story” is definitely worth a watch; I genuinely haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since the credits rolled. However, if you get easily annoyed by long takes, or you’re just not really up for experiencing intense existential depression for a solid hour and a half, I totally won’t blame you if you decide to skip out on it.

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