I've been wanting to see "A Ghost Story" since its debut at Sundance. It looked like an unsettling, yet thoughtful drama, and it seemed like something that would be right in my wheelhouse. After reflecting upon it for a while, I'm still not sure that I know what I feel about it.
Visually, the film is phenomenal. The aspect ratio is unique, but it was a great decision on the part of the director. Having the film shot as a rounded square makes the film appear almost as if it was a home movie (albeit a very good one), creating a much more personal feel to it. There were a few scenes that included some visual effects in the film, and I thought that they were really impressive for a film that is this small. I think that seeing this film in 35mm would be great because it would probably make it feel even more immersive. Other technical aspects of the film are also great. The director's use of visual storytelling is phenomenal. There are subtle cues found throughout that tell the story despite the (often) lack of dialogue. The music in the film is also amazing. The song created for the film reveals a lot about the film's meaning, and is used well. Towards the beginning of the film, there are a few conversational scenes that are a bit heavy on score, but this soon evolves into an interplay between intense use of music and complete absence of music, depending on the mood of the scene. For the most part, it works.
The narrative, on the other hand, does not have the same coherence as the aesthetic elements of the film do. As I mentioned before, there is little dialogue, however, the film is still able to express what it wants to express in other ways. There is one really impactful monologue, but other than that, there are only a few short conversations. This will definitely turn some people off of the film because it's almost to the point of being an avant-garde film. You really have to pay attention to every shot, and every inch of the frame to really understand and feel what is going on. Some people may also be turned off by the tediousness of the film. This is what began to make me question my enjoyment of the film. There are some extremely long, protracted scenes. There is one scene that lasts nearly ten minutes of a character eating a pie. I can definitely get what the director was going for, but I still think that it is a bit excessive. There are a few more of these scenes that I thought lingered a bit more than they should have. I think that some people will probably find this to make the film boring. Personally, I didn't find myself bored as a whole, but rather, I thought it had some sections that dragged a little. There were also a few elements of the plot device that didn't really resonate with me as much as they should have, The things that this film has to say are really profound, but they aren't necessarily anything new. It's really the innovative way in which the messages are told that is what made this film stand out in my eyes. The acting of the film is also spot-on. Casey Affleck (slight spoiler, but not really a spoiler because it's in the trailer) is great despite the fact that he is under a sheet for most of the film. He uses his body language to express emotion, and I think he was a perfect fit for the role. Rooney Mara is also great, nailing her crying scene (which is also the pie scene). Her emotion is real and gritty and made me sympathize with the film even more.
Overall, I know I liked "A Ghost Story", but I'm still not sure how much I liked it. It's an amazingly made film, but there are some narrative shortcomings. I may pick up more when I see it again (I'm going to have to in order to try to make more sense of it), but for now, I'd have to say it's good, but not great. I don't think that this is a film for everyone, and in fact, I think most general audiences will dislike it. For me, though, I found it to be rather thought-provoking.
A Ghost Story
Big Tuna's Rating: B (Yes. No. Maybe. I'm experiencing mixed feelings.)
How Did I Watch It?: In theaters at a screening.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.
I am a huge movie fan that wants to tell people about my very varying taste and opinion of film.