Let’s make no bones about it… I loved this film. I’ll get into the reasons very shortly. But in an uncharacteristically great summer catalogue it’s the icing on the cake (or chocolate pie).
There’s nothing too big in the way of a plot. We’re offered a glimpse into the married life of Casey Affleck’s ‘C’ and Rooney Mara’s ‘M’. Very early on C is involved in a fatal car accident and the rest of the film has us watching him mope around in a bed sheet watching M cope with the loss and subsequent grief. That’s the plot in a nutshell. However, I’m worried about even starting to attempt to put into words how the film offers a whole heap more than what I’ve just described.
I’ll use a few choice words to get me going: ethereal, heartbreaking, beautiful, meandering, philosophical, poignant, contemplative. It’s an ethereal, heartbreaking piece of cinema that beautifully meanders through time and the philosophical propositions it offers will leave you poignantly contemplative. That’ll do for now.
Not to be confused with the Wombats album of the same name, A Ghost Story is a guide to love, loss and desperation. A mixture of lovingly crafted cinema and stunning central performances make for an incredibly enjoyable experience. Rooney Mara manages to embody grief in a mesmerizing way that’s so subtle, yet at the same time so pronounced. Casey Affleck on the other hand, arguably having to deal with even more exquisite subtleties, plays out the majority of the film under a bed sheet. Yet even still you feel every twinge of emotion through the draped costume. It’s crazy. I must point out of course that it’s not just any old linen; it’s an outstanding piece of costume design that really allows the material to take on some sort of character. My Mum tells me he had to wear a customized corset underneath it but I’m sure that’ll make for a more interesting wiki side note than to mention it in any further detail here.
The film is presented in a boxed in 1.33:1 ratio, which gives it an old school home movie feel as well as thrusts you face first into the scene. Much like C’s ghost, you’re invited to sit still and observe. There’s very little editing to speak of, other than some well placed hard cuts. The takes are wonderfully long (I’m a big fan of long takes) and shots are elegantly composed. It’s really a film that coerces the audience into doing some work. It would be unfair to suggest that you can’t just sit there and let the film flow over you, indeed you can, and it would absolutely do so. But it’s through finding your own little meanings, your own little hooks of empathy, that it starts to take on more poignancy.
That’s primarily what I adored so much about it. It’s suggestive and invitational as oppose to over the top and in your face. No doubt you’ll have heard about the ‘pie episode’, but that’s not even the show stealing scene and it’s nigh on impossible not to be right there with Rooney Mara with every single thrust of the fork. If Mara’s there for humanistic questioning, then Affleck’s ghost is there to hint at more existential aspects of the film that allow you moments to ponder both on the flick and on your own life.
If I did have one minor, minor, minor criticism then it comes in the form of a kitchen table monologue in which a character discusses the desire of man to be remembered and the ill-fated nature of the universe. It works, but it works in a kind of ‘Linklater-Everybody Wants Some!-I did philosophy at college’ kinda way. As I say, minor criticism. I hope the rest of this gushing review will encourage you to go and see A Ghost Story in the cinema.