A Ghost Story

 

            To call this movie “minimalist” is to almost give it more credit than it's due.  It feels amateurish in its long, silent, still shots, as if we, the viewers, are supposed to sit there thinking profound thoughts, while there's little or nothing happening on the screen.   And yet there's an absurdist element here, as well, as Writer and Director David Lowery throws a bedsheet over his main character, Casey Affleck, and cuts out two eye holes, and that's his costume after he dies.

            That's not a great reveal, since the promos already tell us that this movie is about what happens after he dies.  But that's the thing.  What happens is a big nothing.  At least for our ghost-in-a-morgue bedsheet.  He observes his grieving widow (Rooney Mara), but can't console her.  (And she's obviously not even sensing his presence.) Then he watches her move out, and soon another family moves in (whose Spanish conversation is untranslated), which somehow upsets him so much he manages to intersect the living realm long enough to slam a few doors and throw a few dishes.  Then they're gone;  undoubtedly considering the place haunted.  Which it is.  By the specter of our sad-sack not-Holy Ghost.

            There's just a tease of communication, by subtitles, with a neighbor ghost, who can't seem to remember whom he's waiting for.  Meanwhile, after a brief run as a party house, the property gets torn down and becomes a high rise, which would make our anti-hero suicidal, except, wait, he's already dead.  Then we have a time-warp sequence where we watch a frontier family, presumably on the same piece of property, look forward to settling there peacefully, but next thing we know, they're all dead from an Indian attack (excuse me, Native American).  All this is viewed dispasionately by our former-leading-man-stuck-in-a-bedsheet. Until finally he meets himself coming and going?

            If this is supposed to be profound, it's about as pedantic as the party guest who bores everyone within earshot, including us, about how fleeting life is in the face of the march of the eons.  Duh.  Personally, I'd rather watch Rooney Mara sit silently and eat a whole pie.  Which she does, out of misguided grief, and of course makes herself sick afterwards.

            Now we're all a little nauseated about the campy self-importance attached to this slow-moving depiction of spiritual Purgatory as an enigmatic afterlife.  Not even the most adventurous moviegoer will find this fascinating.  Though some may attempt to attach great metaphoric meaning, most folks will just let this one give up the ghost.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  In most ghost stories, the dead hang around the living because they have some unfinished business. Is that what's going on here?

2)                  Do you have sentimental attachment to inanimate objects, like a house that you've made a home?

3)                  Do you think that the dead watch over the living?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association