Review: ‘A Ghost Story’ Is A Slow But Insightful Existential Journey
“A Ghost Story” has a long but fulfilling journey.
“A Ghost Story” is a singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 4
“A Ghost Story” is an obscure tale to say the least. Almost treading into the realm of Terrence Malick’s stylistic approach, this film’s existential narrative is developed through reactionary subtleties rather than colloquial dialogue. Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck have a few moments of intermittent conversation but the majority of the film centers around the passing of time waiting for Casey Affleck’s to find closure.
The ghost is represented in an unusually interesting manner. Rather than the usual CGI to create some ephemeral entity, “A Ghost Story” uses a bed sheet with eye holes. The simplicity of this approach works well for the film’s motive and drew my attention to the figure’s limited body language to understand the emotional development of the character. While difficult to convey emotion in this attire, Casey Affleck does a more than adequate job with his portrayal. Primarily using pace as an indicator of what he’s feeling, Affleck is able to convey anger, despair, and frustration while remaining silent throughout the film. And while her screen time is even more limited, Rooney Mara serves as a strong counterpart to Affleck as the source of his purpose. She has a few isolated moments as well showcasing her character’s grief process and coping in a solitary environment.
Given its intended indie platform, “A Ghost Story” has a definitive arthouse feel. It takes risks breaking the mold from a more common filmmaking approach. Those risks pay off in many ways with only one slight misstep. While the creative story, characters, and cinematography excel in various ways, the aspect ratio feels awkward despite the intended purpose. Many times its not noticeable but there are times when it had me longing for a wider view, especially in the broad landscape scenes. Despite this film’s small misgiving, it is a truly exceptional piece of art that should be commended for its bold style.
Entertainment Value – 3
The pacing is on the slower side and there are a number of stagnant moments early in the film. Silence is a prominent attribute of “A Ghost Story” which is later appreciated but has an arduous beginning. It’s not until midway through that the film started to grab my attention.
I started to find intrigue in discovering the film’s purpose. While on the surface the purpose can be relegated to literally “waiting,” entertainment is found in the overall fulfilling experience. For those that aren’t in the indie mindset and general audiences, “A Ghost Story” may feel boring. But for those that have a more refined taste for cinema, this is a film that will have you reflecting upon the experience for years to come.
Re-Watchability – 3
This existential journey has some underlying moving parts that could be further explored in multiple viewings.
As a film that comes full circle, I found myself watching at least part of the film for supplemental fulfillment with the knowledge of the film’s purpose and conclusion. Its pacing makes it not a candidate for many repeat viewings but it does have its merits that are worth at least one revisit.
The extras provide supplemental exploration of the concept of the film. Director commentary adds perspective to a few questions that may be present after watching the film for the first time. The most fulfilling extra is probably the feature on the passing of time. This section is a more of a philosophical perspective of the underlying theme of “A Ghost Story.” If you enjoyed the film like I did, the extras are a must.
- Entertainment Value
"A Ghost Story" is an extensive uphill climb that establishes intrigue through obscurity. It is an unconventional film that moves at an eagerly slow pace, but the overall experience is fulfilling.
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