“A Ghost Story” upholds quality filmmaking

Photo by W Magazine
Rob Carraher

On the heels of Disney’s 2016 live-action release of “Pete’s Dragon,” David Lowery has turned his directing efforts back to a more comfortable fare for the filmmaker. The release of “A Ghost Story” reflects more simi-larly the work of 2013’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.”

Lowery has become an excellent example of what it means to create film for a mass audience versus the art house. Both have their place, and Lowery is the perfect example of recognizing that. In “A Ghost Story,” Lowery challenges himself and audiences to experience film in an unexpected way.

C, Casey Affleck, and his wife M, Rooney Mara, live the relatively normal life of a middle-class couple. C is a musician trying to juggle his work with life’s other responsibilities when he is killed in a car accident. At this point, C takes on the persona of a ghost draped in a white sheet with two eye holes.

For the remainder of the film, this ghostly figure observes his now widowed wife and the way she is coping with his death, as well as the lives of others throughout the course of time. C observes these events while trying to fulfill his purpose beyond life as a living being on earth.

The aura created by Lowery in “A Ghost Story” is the film’s greatest strength. “A Ghost Story” thrives on the simplistic nature of what happens when no one is watching. Lowery doesn’t try to complicate that sentiment with complex camera work, and simply allows scenes to play out, relying heavily on the uncomfortable reaction of human thought and emotion.

Though not the award bait of many other films being released this year, exceptional acting to capture those human elements is essential to the success of the film. This is especially true in Mara’s heartbreaking and raw performance.

Lowery also creates an interesting statement on death, and the way the afterlife operates in correlation to the living world. This may be the most intriguing aspect of “A Ghost Story,” as it demonstrates the creative mind behind the finished product. It also challenges the viewer to think.

In an industry run by mindless explosions and “laugh-out-loud” punchlines, the thoughtful aspect of cinema is often missing. Lowery does well to encourage such interaction as a critical pillar of watching film and truly being affected by it. Even at its weakest, “A Ghost Story” never stops challenging the audience to consider the unknown.

There are times where “A Ghost Story” drags, but not to its detriment. Maybe the film isn’t for the casual movie-goer, but it is during these moments of slowed time where the audience is completely engulfed by the greater message.

Much of what truly captures viewer minds is an incredible score written by Daniel Hart. There will be few cinema musical experiences this year that will be as affecting as the one created by Hart here. Not only in the way it plays an external role to the happenings of the film, but also its role directly in the film, an argument can be made for the imperative capacity to which music influences lives, past and present.

Some filmmakers seem to make cinema simply for the purpose of reaching as many eyes as possible—regardless of the content. Others seems to create film with the belief that many won’t seek out or view the finished product. Lowery appears to be the latter. His patient touch behind the camera and excep-tional trust in his actors tells a much deeper story than what appears on the surface.

Lowery tackles the difficulties of cinema in “A Ghost Story,” when many others may have given up. Understanding film is about experience, his conception stimulates minds both aesthetically and audibly. It is this approach to filmmaking that makes “A Ghost Story” a worthy watch and Lowery on a watchlist as he continues his career as a filmmaker.