An Unbiased and Completely True Review Of..."A Ghost Story"
What's It All About?
NOTE: This will be ending spoiling review, as it is necessary to fully understand the movie on a whole. If you wish to watch it clean, skip this section and go right to the review, which will be spoiler free.
An unnamed couple is living in their modest suburban home, going about their lives like most of us do on any given day. He is a composer of music. She desperately wants to move from this home somewhere new, and pesters him about it. She asks him often why he wants to stay in this particular home, and he tells her that they have history here and blows off her request to pack up their stuff and move.
One night, they are awakened by a sound, their piano keys being forcefully pressed. They investigate and see nothing, so return to bed, falling asleep in each others arms.
The next day, the husband is killed in a car crash just in front of the home. Mrs. goes to the hospital to identify the body, but can only look at her husbands face a moment before covering him with the sheet over his body again. She departs, unable to contain the grief of this sudden loss.
After a few moments, the husband sits up, still covered in the sheet. He leaves the morgue room, a ghost, draped in a sheet. He wanders the hospital, apparently confused about his new state, before leaving and walking back to his home. There, he 'haunts' his wife, unable to interact with her, he watches as time moves forward at a rapid pace. He speaks to a ghost in the next house over from him, who is waiting for someone to return to the house. A friend, if you will, someone he can commiserate with over time. The wife begins to remodel the interior, ending by writing a small note that she places inside of a crack in the wall, something she has done since a child at all the various homes she lived in. She finally leaves, others move in, all the while he watches them live their lives.
He begins to display anger at losing his life and his spouse, and angrily acts out against a mother and her children, throwing dishes and glasses to the floor. This family leaves, and we next find him amidst a party of young adults, one of whom is sitting at the kitchen table and speaking on the futility of the human experience, that all life eventually ends. Our ghost stands transfixed listening to this man speak, beginning to understand the nature of his new existence. He watches as the ghost next door comes to a realization that her expected guest is never to arrive, and disappears from existence, the sheet she was in falling to the ground.
Time passes quickly, and the house is replaced by a large towering building in a very futuristic skyline of similar buildings. He can't abide this, being locked in a space he doesn't like and has changed so drastically from the small home he had lived in. He goes to the roof of the building and tosses himself from the heights, only to find himself still present, but at a time before his home was even built.
He has to linger on the spot, watching settlers attempt to make a homestead there, watch as the home is built, watch as he and his wife move into the home. He is depressed and sits on the piano bench, striking the keys, waking up the man and wife. He watches again as she completes the remodel, and leave the home. He digs out the note from the wall, reads it, and then disappears, much as his neighbor did.
So What Do I Think?
I found this movie at random on Netflix, listed under a category called "Hidden Gems". I had been completely unaware of it prior to this, and decided to give it a go, even the preview with the sheet draped ghost intrigued me. Here was a completely different representation of a spirit on film, which was an indication that I hoped would mean that the rest of the film would be non-standard. It was.
The beginning of the film has almost no dialogue in it, very little music, and very long still shots of the actors. A prime example is the 4 minute long pie eating scene. I understand completely the necessity that the director felt in keeping the camera on someone as they furiously and with tears running down their face at almost a whole pie. Watching the ghost watch her eat this, with all the emotion on her face, was almost painful to see. Rooney Mara displays a true hunger of someone who has lost a loved one, and more than likely has not truly eaten since the event, and the disgust that she has while eating so very much of the pie. When she throws it all up, it is clear that she has not been taking care of herself, and her body is revolting against her attempt to drown her sorrows through food.
Seeing that the ghost was locked into the space of the home, even when it was nothing more than a plot of land was interesting. I was initially a little confused at why he, after attempting to kill himself, wound up in the past. After a few minutes, it dawned on me that the neighbor ghost had given up her purpose of waiting on whomever it was she was waiting on and moved onto the next plane of existence, but our ghost had yet to meet that particular milestone and that kept him trapped in time.
There are small clues thrown throughout the film that, when looked at after the credits have rolled, pointed to what was to come for the husband, but at the time, were completely benign occurrences. Why is he so attached to this particular home, to the near detriment of his relationship with his wife? Even living in a space for decades, there is still opportunities to go somewhere new, build new experiences and histories. Being an at home creator of music, he could do this work anywhere, all he needs is instruments and a computer. His music, given the state of their home, clearly isn't providing them with an overabundance of cash, more than likely just scraping through the bills. Like many of us out there with a hobby that we would like to monetize for our benefit, it is clear that he is not altogether successful with this musical endeavor, and that the lyrics to the only full song of his we hear is filled with depressing and angst ridden lyrics that would give Morrissey a run for his money.
I felt sorry for this trapped spirit, forced to watch as his wife moved on, literally after his death, and so many more people come and go into the home. To sit there in a spot for hundreds of years, watching the world go by, then watching the aftermath of your death all over again is gut wrenching to think about. If this is what the afterlife could be like (if there is an option to decline moving on), I will take a hard pass.
I happen to like movies whose endings are a little open for interpretation, even if the ending seems pretty clear cut, I can still debate over what the significance of the end was with another fan. While I appreciate the fact that the ending here is very open to interpretation, I would have liked to have a nugget of knowledge to help prove or disprove a theory. I understand completely that the ending was meant to be the way it was, because there should be a guess as to what happened. It is a heartwarming and, I felt, depressing ending, but worth the hour and change that came before it.
This is definitely not a ghost story that one would expect to find, flipping the perspective to the ghost and what they experience, how they see their world and interact with it. It is definitely not a horror or suspenseful film at all, but cerebral, deep, and heavy with emotion. Even though we don't see the face of Casey Affleck after he dies, simply a sheet with two eye holes, there is still a level of gravitas that he puts out in his slow head turning, deliberate walk, even in his tantrum.
I enjoyed this film, and would have rated a 5, if not for the lengthy pauses which, at times, made me uncomfortable and think about grabbing the remote to move the story along. I get it, the director made deliberate and purposeful applications of these shots, I personally didn't like them. Other than that, this is a fine departure from the normal ghost spooky film, and is recommended for someone looking for a unique and though provoking film.
A Ghost Story Trailer
© 2020 Ryan Saunders