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Summer Hits 2017: A Ghost Story review

by Cole Greenberg, Entertainment Editor

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Rating: 9.5/10

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

Director: David Lowery

Release Date: July 7, 2017

MPAA Rating: R

 

When we die, what will we leave behind? If anything, will it even matter?

These are perhaps some of the most daunting questions that plague and pester our time on Earth, questions that just may remain without answers. Yet, it is vital for us to ponder on these things, essential to giving us purpose, as we strive to leave a small, meaningful mark on history.

These questions are the ones presented in A Ghost Story, a haunting, twisted, and beautiful opus on the infinity of time. The film, a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, tells the tender tale of a couple named C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara). When C is one day killed in a car accident outside their suburban Texas home, he leaves behind M in the flesh.  But, only mere moments after M examines C’s corpse on a hospital bed and leaves, he rises up, now a sheeted ghost. From here, we are taken on a spiritual, transcendental journey that will haunt you for long to come.

Director David Lowery’s minimalistic, intimate, and nearly dialogue-less film is amazingly original and unique. Lowery unfolds the film in a slow, timely, and often chilling manner, and it’s stunning. His additional use of cutting and long takes are particularly fascinating, leaving an eerily hypnotic ambience on the movie.

When a single take will occasionally last for several minutes at a time, you’ll suddenly forget that you’re even watching a film; it becomes more like a series of surreal photographs and paintings. This is used best in scenes like when C and M lie in bed together in a tangle of skin and sheets, or when the stirring Rooney Mara, sobbing in loneliness and grief, stomach-churningly eats an entire chocolate pie.

Silently observing his wife trying to comprehend his death and heal, C also tries to confront if he’ll ever be remembered, or if he will just be lost in time. Still adorned in the bedsheet, he stays at his haunted home and witnesses different homeowners come and go, until it’s eventually turned into an urban office skyscraper. The constant conflict within C of having to leave everything behind as well as having to confront the fact that all that’s left of your legacy may be almost nothing is incredibly powerful, and, along with many other factors, it’s what makes the quiet film a loud, soaring triumph.

Both the visual aesthetic and audible score of A Ghost Story are simultaneously strange and beautiful, and, as the film progresses deeper and deeper, they become more fervent.

Lowery’s film is filled with cosmic overtones, bringing out his inspiration from film’s great philosophical storytellers, such as Terrence Malick and Andrei Tarkovsky. Yet, he is still able to craft his own individual style, touched with folksy elements that have embodied his past work. A large part of this is due to frequent Lowery collaborator Daniel Hart’s moody and moving musical score, glazed with touches of guitar and violin. When all brought together, the movie lifts off the screen and becomes a true existential hymn.

Whatever one’s beliefs about death and what lies beyond death may be, A Ghost Story represents the universality of leaving life behind – your grieving loved ones, your forsaken possessions, and the uncertainty of how you’ll be remembered.

Who knows, maybe when we die, we’ll go to heaven or hell, or it’s just an eternal sleep, or reincarnation awaits us, or maybe we’ll really just damn well turn into a hooded ghost, but only one thing remains for certain: what we leave behind will be all what is left of us on Earth, and we must make it our every priority to make sure that it can help others, whether it’s days or centuries after we leave.

The question is not what will we leave behind when we die, but it is rather what can we do now to ensure that we are remembered. What can we do to ensure that what we leave behind truly does matter?

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Summer Hits 2017: A Ghost Story review