A Ghost Story (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

After his death, a man goes home dressed in a white sheet to try to reconnect with his grieving wife.

A Ghost Story an intimate haunting film by David Lowery that explores themes of grieving, remembering, being remembered, learning to let go, and ultimately love.  Here Lowery creates an intimate look on a couple in a short time before killing the husband, leaving his wife in shock and trying to figure life out for herself.  He also explores this death from the deceased side of things without ever going in the cheesy or creepy worlds many ghost story films go to in order to do this.  Here he creates 2 strong leads that have very few lines, yet manage to pass emotions and feelings through watching these two people interact before the husband’s death and how they are after it.

Playing this couple beautifully with a sadness that is palpable are Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.  Issue with Affleck aside, he gives a strong performance here as the husband/ghost.  The one that should be concentrated on here is Mara.  She is not the lead but steals every scene she is in.  Her demonstration of grief and the pain of losing one’s significant other is raw and stunning in its sadness.  She shows incredible talent while using very few words.  The way she passes her emotions through small variations of her character and through nuances in how she’s breathing, the look in her eyes, the way she cries when left alone, it all rings very true and absolutely real.  She gives here the kind of performances rarely seen in ghost films and it makes the entire film worth watching just to see her fall apart and pick herself back up.  It’s one of those touching performances that haunts for a long time after the film ends.

The film here relies a lot on performances, but also on music and visual style.  The music here is by Daniel Hart who creates sounds and song that go hand in hand with the film, creating an extra layer of emotion, matching the sadness emanating from the leads.  His music is almost like an extra character in this minimalist film and it adds a lot to the scenes where it is present.  Going with the music and acting is the visual style.  At first, it looks like a hipster-y, Instagram-framed and filtered film, but as it advances, it all makes sense.  The framing and subdued colors help create the grief feeling, enhances the emotions by being almost a background element to them.  The look is simple throughout and matches the story and its tone beautifully.

A Ghost Story is one of those character studies that is concentrated on the emotions and how the leads feel to make the audience feel with them.  It’s has a few scenes that feel out of place, but as a whole, it’s one of those films that succeeds in making the viewer feel with the characters.  Rooney Mara is absolutely amazing in her performance of grief and learning to live without a loved one.  She embodies sadness and determination in how she just keeps going after the hardest event of her life.  She’s the true shining star here and makes the whole film worth watching just to see her.

The Fantasia International Film Fetival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.