A Ghost Story Review: A Minimalist Tale of Human Purpose

Photo Credit:https://www.wmagazine.com/story/rooney-mara-casey-affleck-ghost-story-trailer-premiere

David Lowery’s A Ghost Story quickly seduces its audience into a meditative state of both contemplation and fear. But despite its title, it’s far from the traditional fright fest, instead using the supernatural to mine genuine emotion and thought into its exploration of human purpose. At once intimately small and yet representative of our entire species, no one can claim the film isn’t ambitious.

A couple (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) live in a modest house off the beaten path, which may fulfill his ambitions, but not hers. The tension within the pair is played realistically, even if Affleck’s meek drawl isn’t nearly as earnest here as it was in Manchester By the Sea. But then he dies. The rest of the film is his story, though with Affleck’s face replaced with an all-encompassing sheet with two holes for eyes. He wanders around, watching his former love move on, and eventually move out. His days are spent lurking and haunting a place he’s been left behind at as various occupants take up the house.

This is the film’s vehicle for exploring the meaning of life and the human legacy. Is this imprint of former human life, this ghost, to be forgotten? Is he to move on himself to whatever awaits him next? This specter is stuck in a life that abandoned him, hoping for a legacy that seems impossible.

Lowery, serving as both writer and director, naturally doesn’t have the answers to all the big questions he raises, with the film’s substantial ambitions eventually starting to crumble under their own weight. He also has a frustrating command on the rules of this world he created, leading us to places it might have been unnecessary to go. The third act is therefore sloppy, but he still manages to end the film on a note that promotes self worth. While certainly taking the scenic route through time itself, A Ghost Story gets where it needs to in its final moments, extracting emotion out of this journey in a soul covered in a sheet. Ultimately, it’s minimalist approach and dreamlike tone create a film that feels universal to who we are as a species and what being a human means for our future. The film is emotional in a way that too few dare to be, which helps to make up for its shortcomings, making for a ghost story that may not spook you, but will leave you contemplating your own existence. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *