Empty Haunts: Our Review of ‘A Ghost Story’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 21, 2017
Empty Haunts: Our Review of ‘A Ghost Story’

Haunting, surely, but A Ghost Story is only scary if you’re easily prone to wondering about how infinitesimally small your existence within the universe really is. The existential meets the intimate in this quiet indie story that ponders meaning of life from the perspective of someone who just lost his.

A young attractive couples occupies a small house in sort of any-town USA. We know little about them: named only with the initials C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara), they’re romantic, they sometimes hear noises in the house at night, and they have discussed the prospect of moving.

Then, off camera, C gets into a car accident and dies. He awakens, sort of, and in this afterlife he is apparently tasked with finding some peace, somehow, someway, for whatever reason. What’s more, he is wearing a white bed sheet with a couple of eyeholes cut out.

It’s that image that propels the film, one that isn’t frightening but at times unnerving. It’s funny but also sad. It’s virtually lifeless and motionless, and yet seemingly full of emotion. It is a stunning visual, one that allows the viewer to project emotions, cast thoughts, and stare straight into the deceased’s soul.

But because we know so little about these two, because there is such little dialogue, A Ghost Story is a contemplative offering without direction or its own purpose. It’s a slow burn, which includes a lengthy scene of a M grieving with a homemade pie; she eats the entire thing in the uncut shot, while ghostly C stands in the background and looks on.

At 90 minutes, the lengthy meditation is interrupted by a monologue that posits a nihilistic view of life. It’s from a party-goer that is now at the house. That’s because time passes C (and the audience) so quickly – M has moved on, a family has moved in and out of the house, and soon these kids will be gone too.

C also happens upon another sheeted spectral searching for his or her own comfort. It may not be easy for either of them, and it’s not particularly easy for the audience. A Ghost Story is imaginatively brought to the screen, but there is little meaning, and not much more than a sheet to engage. It feels more an episode of The Twilight Zone than a feature film as the premise – a spirit seeking solace in the afterlife – is simple, straightforward, and not especially explored. It is a film that requires the viewer to add more to it; it’s not a puzzle to put together, but a raw idea that needs more growth.

While the last ten minutes or so is stirring and fascinating, it takes far too long to get there in a film that doesn’t do enough to make you care about the characters, or dabble in a theme that isn’t as compelling as it should be.

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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.