Sundance Film Festival 2017 – A Review of ‘A Ghost Story’

Jun 21 2017 BY Jovanne Campbell

Starring: Rooney Mara & Casey Affleck

Directed by: David Lowery

When it comes to originality, I’d be surprised if we have a more innovative, original release this year. The thought-provoking ‘A Ghost Story’ captures the emotion of life after death and when mixed with the minimal dialogue that the film contains, chances are that we will not find a film more intense.

This compelling film is based on a house, a couple and a ghost. Tragedy strikes when character, only known as ‘C’ (Casey Affleck) dies in a car crash which leaves ‘M’ (Rooney Mara) devastated. Through her grievances, C returns as a ghost, covered in a white sheet to the house to watch over her. Even with scenes of complete silence, it is easy to capture the emotion of both characters. The film is daring in the sense that we have two characters in a room with each other, unknowingly, and their emotions are completely in sync. The stand out scene which encapsulates this the most is where we have M sitting on the floor in her kitchen for just over 5 minutes and eating a pie whilst C watches over her. The scene is completely mute. Her pain is evident and overwhelms her to the point where she runs to the toilet to make herself throw up.

 As we travel through time, M has to move on with her life and leaves by leaving a note in the wall. A new family move into the house and he wreaks havoc on them as he cannot stand the thought of M not being in the house with him which forces the family to move out also. It’s as if he has finally realised that he is powerless to be with the love of his life again. The film starts to move through the decades with C posted in the same spot, trying to get to the note which is in a crack in the wall. He is completely unwilling to let go. We go through a pioneer period in which a family is slaughtered which may be a metaphor for that particular area where the house is built being destined for tragedy (one of the many theories that have ran through my mind). It’s only at this point that Lowery starts to give us more answers, in what can be described as a cyclical. We get back to the scene where the young couple decide to move into the house and the night that there was a bump in the night at the start of the film.

As incredibly told as the story is, I cannot help but feel that it would have worked better as a short film. The film did not need 87 minutes to capture the concept. The long scenes will not be the to the taste of all audiences and I felt that some of which were unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the narrative. Furthermore, the issue of the white sheet has to be addressed as surely director David Lowery could have done better than a white sheet with two eyes that are cut out. The question has to be asked, who cut the holes into the sheet? It certainly wasn’t there when M identified the body at the hospital.

With that being said, the film will surely spark discussion of differing theories of what happens after we die which ultimately is what Lowery would have set out to achieve and I would recommend anyone to go and see it.

The UK release for ‘A Ghost Story’ is  7 July.