When you were a kid, chances are you considered being a ghost for Halloween.
Today’s ghosts have gotten very creative and gruesome, with bloody face paint or some wispy remnant of who the person was in life. But no one can forget the iconic bed-sheet ghost, with eyes cut out.
Writer/director David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” makes use of this classic, but not in the way that you would expect. The film, framed in a 4:3 aspect ratio that gives the impression of an old-fashioned home video, mostly follows a couple, played by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck (they are listed simply as M and C, respectively), who seem to have differing opinions about the house they live in: she wants to move, and he would rather they stay. While it is clear that they love each other—the first half hour is peppered with quietly intimate moments between the two—the house is definitely a point of contention.
The tension rises slowly and nearly imperceptibly. This is a languid film, which makes no rush of the bare-bones plot, relishing in each scene as if holding onto its memory. While the film never tips into the horror genre that the title suggests, the noises the couple hears and odd glimpses of refracted light on the walls suggest something is awry. However, the horror our audience expects is more of a poignant, relatable fear of death, which is faced quite suddenly when C dies in a car crash.
This is when things start to get interesting. Our lovable bed-sheet ghost comes out to play. And, yes, I will warn you, you are going to uncomfortably wonder if you should laugh or not. There is something so silly about Lowery’s ghost—and yet chillingly beautiful. As M continues on with her life, the ghost watches his slip away. You don’t often get to see through the ghost’s perspective like you do here, probably because it achieves the opposite effect of a ghost story. It won’t make you scream; it will make you ache.
But that is the beauty of this film, and it goes deeper, even playing with the concept of time itself as the ghost does all he can to hold onto the house, even as things begin to shift and others inhabit it. There is even another ghost in the house next door, a piece that is beautiful in meaning, but ruined a little bit by the completely unnecessary captions for the conversations the two ghosts have (the story would still be understood without the captions, and my only guess is that Lowery was trying to make the audience laugh).
While both Mara and Affleck give compelling performances (Mara’s scene eating a pie is heartbreakingly difficult to watch in its honesty), the film’s true character is revealed in the cinematography. The long takes, with starkly minimal content, create a quietly alluring perspective that sets stillness as its focal point and really lets you meditate on the heart of the story, rather than extraneous details. This is a refreshing take on love and loss, one that will haunt you with its sincerity. “A Ghost Story” is coming soon to Midtown Cinema.
UPCOMING SPECIAL EVENTS AT MIDTOWN CINEMA
Director’s Collections: Spike Lee
“Do The Right Thing”
Saturday, Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m.
National Theatre Live
Monday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m.
“Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches”
Saturday, Aug. 19, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 20, 1 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 28, 6:30 p.m.
“Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika”
Sunday, Aug. 20, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 21, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 29, 6:30 p.m.
Free Outdoor Film Series
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
Friday, Aug. 11, at dusk
Rain date: Saturday, Aug. 12
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Friday, Aug. 25, at dusk
Rain date: Saturday, Aug. 26
Author: Sammi Leigh Melville