A Ghost Story: an existential saga lacking in humanity
Every day we are haunted.
We are haunted by the knowledge that our time on earth is finite. We are haunted by the knowledge that humanity has the power to leave indelible imprints on the earth but as individuals will likely fade from collective memory. We live, we die, we are remembered, and then, forgotten. It can be crushing or liberating, depending on your outlook.
And so, A Ghost Story, the latest supernatural drama from director David Lowry.
The film opens with a young couple in realistic cohabitation; in love, but not bereft of the complexities that entails sharing a life. Their lives are jolted when “C” (Casey Affleck) is killed in a car accident and returns to his wife, “M” (Rooney Mara) as a white sheet adorned ghost. Unaffected by the passage of time, bar a slight dirtying of his sheet, C is anchored to the house watching lives, structures and civilisations ebb and flow. All of these events are offered up to us from the unbiased gaze of C.
The film plays out through a boxy aspect ratio, pushing the audience into voyeurism, as if we’re peering into a family’s slide projector. This feeling of observation bordering on intrusion is furthered by Lowry’s shooting style. Shots are patient, lingering breathlessly over raw moments we have no business seeing. We see M eating a whole pie only to purge it in her stomach-roiling grief. We watch her change the bed sheets for what we assume to be the first time since C's passing, imagining her slowly purging his indelible presence in their home, starting with his scent on their bed. We can see the psychological turmoil play out on screen, with no need for dialogue or camera movement. And it feels real.
It is left to us to make our own interpretation. That is, until the film’s thesis statement is thrown at us via a heavy-handed philosophical diatribe delivered by a drunken existentialist. Through the glib monologue of the trademark party downer I’m wrenched from the grief-stricken haze of M and C’s heartbreak, and unwillingly thrown toward an ambitious and expansive comment on the futility of singular life against the relentlessness of time.
A Ghost Story takes a cosmic scope. But I can’t help feeling that it could have been so much purer, and meant so much more, if the lens was microcosmic. A study of grief and loss, grounded by Rooney Mara’s solar-plexus thumping performance, would have been a brilliant thesis statement in its honest simplicity. That’s the film I wish I got: one that acknowledges not only the frailty of life, but the power of a lived experience.
Nevertheless, I give A Ghost Story 3/5 Difficult To Fold Fitted Sheets
A Ghost Story opens Thursday the 27th of July at Luna Leederville.