By: Mark Farmer, Entertainment Writer
David Lowery’s A Ghost Story released on home video earlier this month, starring Casey Affleck as a man who dies and returns to his home as a ghost, witnessing the events that transpire within his old house.
Lowery is a new face in Hollywood- His films have garnered festival awards here and there for the past eight years, until making his first wide-release directorial-debut in 2013 with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (which, incidentally, also starred Affleck and Rooney Mara). While a complete flop at the box office, it ultimately earned high praises from critics, and nabbed Lowery his next big project- adapting Pete’s Dragon for Disney in a live action setting. His writing and directing for the 2016 flick paid off, earning high marks in both reviews and the box office.
It was with the profits of Pete’s Dragon that Lowery set out to make A Ghost Story. Sporting a measly $100,000 budget and a 30-page-script, Lowery hoped to assuage his “existential crisis” that, as he told The Guardian, was brought on by an article he read detailing the possibility of a catastrophic earthquake. Filmed in secret with Affleck and Mara during the summer of 2016, the film released earlier this year at Sundance and later with a limited theatrical release. How did Lowery do?
The overall concept is a solid, if not stereotypical, idea that has plenty of promise. Affleck dies and witnesses as his wife moves on, and later observes others entering his old home and inhabiting it. There’s plenty to say here about sentimental values, physical attachment, and the like. As the movie starts to kick off, there truly are some fantastic scenes that really show raw emotion in ways that haven’t really been scene before on-screen.
But much of the film’s execution is incredibly lacking- Not so much in a “bad filmmaking” way, but in a “this film screams ‘ART’ so loudly it hurts to watch” kind of way. For a film that is only 30 pages in length, its 92-minute runtime is really mindboggling. Entire scenes last five, even ten minutes, with virtually no development whatsoever. Now, don’t get me wrong- This isn’t a wide-release kind of film. These kinds of quirks are perfect for an indie film lover- Even stereotypical. But, in A Ghost Story, it seems like the exact kind of movie that someone would laugh at you for watching if you showed them any one of its scenes.
The main concept evolves into something much bigger, more ethereal, and overall worse than it originally set out to be. Rather than being a personal story between Mara and Affleck, it instead becomes something more about… Time? Or maybe about… time’s effects on love? The supernatural concept is thrown against a wall and completely bastardized in favor of a more grandiose plotline that will surely leave any intrigued moviegoer feeling worse off for giving A Ghost Story a shot.
I can’t ignore some of the film’s best aspects, though- The cinematography is superb, and cinematography Andrew Droz Palermo (a Jefferson City native!) deserves recognition for his great work. The music, while a bit cheesy at times, is rather poignant and utilized well in the film. And honestly, some scenes are incredibly touching! When Rooney Mara’s character listens to the music Casey Affleck’s character made for her, the acting, editing… Everything lines up to create a perfect scene. Unfortunately, the movie still has an hour left and it’s all downhill from there.
Upon first glance, I’d recommend watching the trailer to really get a good idea of whether or not A Ghost Story seems worth watching. But even then, the concept peddled in those short few minutes totally crumbles as the film goes on. Is it worth it for these few excellent scenes? For a film enthusiast, maybe. But to the average moviegoer, absolutely not.