Don’t let its name fool you: A Ghost Story isn’t the latest horror flick. Instead, it is a graceful take on loss and isolation, a quiet, imaginative film that offers a needed break in the tedium of blockbuster season. Once again, David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) has probed deep into the human psyche to find the nugget of truth buried underneath, and once again, he has created something beautiful in the process.
A Ghost Story is a brilliant collection of engrossing aesthetic choices. Similar to Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, the film capitalizes on vibrant sunsets and open fields, making every shot irresistibly gorgeous. Not a movie for the impatient, it maintains a magical, cosmic rhythm, driven by a ghastly silence. In this universe, time isn’t linear – at least not in the sense we’ve come to know it – and yet the progression of the world never strays from the guiding rules writer-director David Lowery has established for it.
In choosing a squared aspect ratio with rounded corners, the frame immediately draws attention to the claustrophobic nature of the story, with the image perfectly tailored to fit a single character at one time. It also highlights the recurring themes of facing nostalgia, as the frame feels like it belongs in a photo album or an old Super 8 home movie. As the tale unfolds, you almost expect it to be accompanied by the clicking of a slide projector.
Truly a brilliant study of observation, A Ghost Story forces its protagonist into the role of a passive spectator. He is tethered to the physical realm, even though he has no way of effectively communicating with it. As our spectre is propelled down the path toward acceptance, we see his attitude shift from bitterness to curiosity. The further he is able to distance himself from any emotional attachments he has carried over from his life, the more he is able to appreciate the celestial wonder of existence itself.
It’s probably a tired cliché to point it out, but A Ghost Story says a tremendous amount without saying a word. We have been treated to a masterpiece of magical realism, the likes of which don’t grace our screens nearly often enough. There is a sequence in which Rooney Mara eats a pie as a part of her grieving process, and it is surprisingly the most captivating image we’ve seen on film so far this year. This is a must-see for film lovers.
Drink Every Time: there is a needless fade-to-black transition.