by Justin Stewart Film Horizon Line

A Ghost Story | David Lowery

July 7, 2017

Admirers of David Lowery’s third feature (and second with stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, after 2013’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) have and will point to its undeniable audacity, its commitment to a vision and its uncynical purity of emotion. They’ll appreciate cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo’s washed-out colors, scrunched into Academy ratio compositions with rounded corners. They might also find its metaphors moving, and think it has things to say about topics both common (like grief) and metaphysical (the circular nature of history). But visionaries will always have detractors, and there’s a basic vapidity, combined with an obnoxiously hammering quality to the entire project, that will void all of those partially true kindnesses for stone-hearted doubters like this writer. [And this site’s editor –Ed.] 

A Ghost Story’s plot is difficult to discuss without lessening the experience for those who haven’t seen it, so I’ll leave it at Mara and Affleck’s characters being a couple living in suburban Texas (he’s a musician who serenades her with bedroom electropop) who have been hearing some night bumps in their modest home, and whose lives are gored by unexpected tragedy. As previews and posters show, there’s also a ghost, donned in standard white bed sheet with cutout eyeholes, a constant sight gag that does take some edge off of the funereal solemnity. Nietzsche, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Virginia Woolf sleeves are pointedly lingered upon; Will Oldham stops by for a dull improv monologue; and Mara binge eats a pie for maybe five minutes that feels like 20—the sort of insufferable artistic gamble with which the film’s littered, and which render questionable even the first half of the expression “interesting failure.” 

Published as part of BAMcinemaFest 2017 | Dispatch 2.