Monday, August 7, 2017

Movie Review: A Ghost Story

A brilliant trailer with a clever concept, beautiful shots, and moving song made this film one of my most anticipated of the year once I heard of it. David Lowery has made some interesting choices before this film ranging from dramas to kids movies even working with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara previously. The two actors play a couple unnamed but living together in a house where strange noises spook them at night. They argue over whether to move out or not while Affleck's C works on music and Mara's M throws out their belongings. The story is told with long simple shots that hang there observing the character go about their mundane lives. The romance ends abruptly when C is in a car accident outside their house.

M says goodbye to him and walks out of the hospital and the ghost sits up in his hospital sheets. He has a chance to walk through a door to the other side but decides to walk home to watch his wife grieve. There is an infamous scene where Rooney Mara eats nearly a whole pie in one shot. The ghost watches her move on with her life and becomes angry when she meets another man. He can make the lights flicker and when really frustrated flip over objects. M finally moves out leaving the ghost behind to stare out the window after her. In one of the creepier parts of the film, the ghost sees another ghost in the neighboring house waiting for someone but they can't remember who. 

A new family moves into the house speaking only Spanish. The ghost watches them through the days as time speeds up leaving the ghost to observe them studying, eating, and celebrating Christmas. The ghost becomes frustrated and spooks the kids finally pushing them to move out when he throws a tantrum during a meal, smashing plates and levitating objects. The family leaves and a group of revelers move in with one philosophical partygoer giving a grand speech about the meaninglessness of art when face with eternity and the inevitable end of humanity. Kesha shows up for a brief cameo and one of her songs plays in the background of the party.

The song that really got to me and I played repeatedly once I heard it in the preview is "I Get Overwhelmed" by Dark Rooms, which features prominently in the film as the song C is working on. The melody is so moving with crazy lyrics and moving vocals that moved me deeply. The frustration of time passing is illustrated by the ghost's desperate attempt to pull out a note from the wall the M put there before she left. Just as he manages to pull it out a little, the house is destroyed by a tractor. The neighbor ghost realizes that the person they are waiting for is not coming back and they vanish. The ghost remains watching as a new building rises up around him and he strolls through board meetings and trudges past office workers. In a distant future of glowing lights and skyscrapers, the ghost stands on the top of the building and falls off warping back in time.

The ghost finds itself in the pioneer days watching a family try to settle including a little girl who hides notes under a rock. The family is attacked and killed and the ghost watches them decompose finally observing time pass up until C and M are moving into the house again. Time repeats itself finally revealing those initial bumps in the night as the frustrated ghost. The ghost sees another version of itself repeat the same afterlife observations but this time the ghost pulls out M's note and vanishes after he reads it. The movie comes to an emotional close and has such powerful themes in its simple execution. I'll be thinking about this movie for a while and it deep meditative nature that it is not something to fully grasp on one viewing. I knew there would be some drag to the film during the slow parts but in the end, it was enjoyable and entertaining while also being thought-provoking and moving. 

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