More noise than signal

A Ghost Story

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

To be fair, I knew what I was getting into with A Ghost Story, so I’m not going to be to angry with it.

Casey Affleck’s C and Rooney Mara’s M appear to be a happy enough couple in their new home, but tragedy visits them when C is killed in a car crash. Rather than step into the light, however, C chooses to remain on this earth as a ghost and watch over his widow.

A ghost, in this case, in the lazy Halloween costume sense, as in a white bedsheet draped over him and two eyes drawn in with felt tip pens. C watches, dispassionately, probably, as M struggles to come to terms with her loss, and eats a pie. Then, she moves out, and a charming young family move in, the exuberance of the kids presumably leading C to start poltergiesting to scare them off. More people move in, and we’re “treated” to some dude ranting about time diminishing all that, if it studied for a few years, could be described as sophomoric. Then the house is demolished, and time repeats itself, and the film ends. Cue scratching of heads, mild befuddlement and almost immediate filing into your brain’s “forget me” queue.

The IMDB summary describes David Lowery’s film thus: “In this 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.” If you are able to read any of that into this film, as many breathless reviews have, then more power to you. I applaud your irrational attempts to impose meaning on garbage.

For us schmucks out here in reality-land, this is a unique combination of the extreme boredom and the laughable. We’re supposed to find C’s besheeted form, I gather, as an expression of yearning, of a dehumanised expression of raw emotion, instead, there’s not one time he didn’t creep up at the edge of the frame where the out and out stupidity of the concept didn’t elicit a chuckle from me. The swelling soundtrack clumsily indicates emotions, while the muted, washed out visuals compete with the narrative for dullest thing in the film.

Now, I’ve seen some very slow burning, glacially paced art house films that I’ve found quite affecting, such as With a Girl of Black Soil, but there’s no connections for me in A Ghost Story. It’s really hard to take a film seriously when over 5% of the film’s running time is devoted to watching someone eat a pie. Or it might be a flan. Hard to say. Such is the enigma of the film.

The film managed to annoy me almost from the off, first with what I assume was an attempt to avoid product placement by gaffer taping over the Sony logo on the MDR-7506 headphones, a recognisable set of cans for those in the audio game, as use in such quality productions as, well, this podcast. But there’s a Sony logo on both left and right cans, and only one is obscured. Ugh. Also, and rather less obscurely, there seems to be almost no plausible scenario where C would be able to engineer a fatal car collision on that road if he’d tried – it’s shown as happening practically in his driveway. Minor points both, but not ones that left me well disposed to a film that asks so much of its audience, for so little in return.

But, as I say, I sort of expected this coming in to it. While hoping for the best, it delivered the worst, or at least, the most boring. I suppose if you want a film to read, in the academic sense, then there’s elements to scratch that itch, but I can’t recommend this to anyone. Leave well alone.