Subscribe
MaxSpace

Review: A Ghost Story

You'll never look at your childhood ghost costume the same way.

By Max Weiss | July 27, 2017, 10:30 am

-A24
MaxSpace

Review: A Ghost Story

You'll never look at your childhood ghost costume the same way.

By Max Weiss | July 27, 2017, 10:30 am

-A24

Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

It’s hard to quantify the audacity it took for David Lowery to make this film. It’s a ghost story, a haunting meditation on life, loss, and mankind’s place in the universe, that features a man under a sheet with the eye holes poked out. Yes, the ghost of the title is your last minute Halloween costume from when you were a kid—and somehow, improbably, that’s part of the film’s poignancy.


⇓ Article continues below ⇓

When the film starts, we meet a married couple, played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara—called C and M in the credits. He’s a composer and musician, it’s not clear what she does. They’re getting ready to move from their somewhat isolated, ranch-style house (we find out later, it was her idea to move.) At night, there’s a mysterious crashing sound on the piano; the shadow of a wind chime flickers eerily on a wall—is the house haunted? Is that why they’re leaving? As a couple, they have a natural physical intimacy, a nearly wordless simpatico. And then, there’s a car crash. We don’t see the crash, but Lowery lingers briefly on C’s lifeless body hunched over the steering wheel. M goes to ID the body; she’s not histrionic, just slow and sad, in keeping with the film’s rhythms. And then, C gets up from the gurney in the morgue, the sheet draped over him, the eyeholes poked out, and follows her home.

It’s hard to explain how uncanny and strange C’s silent, looming presence is. At first, you laugh—and that’s okay, you’re allowed to! A few times, Lowery frames the shot in such a way that the “ghost” takes you by surprise, gooses you in an almost traditional horror way. Mostly, he just stands there, useless, sad, silent. Time passes, because that’s what time does. M leaves the house, but he’s stuck there. He has a purpose: To dig out the small note M left behind in a wall—a way of reminding herself she was once there, she told him when they were both alive—and read it. A new family moves in. He’s angry. He scares them. They move out. A rave party takes place, where a philosopher-poet (Will Oldham) freaks out his fellow party-goers by talking about man’s need to leave behind signifiers in a doomed world. More things happen—but not too much (until the very end). The film is defiantly slow. At one point, M expresses her grief by eating an entire pie a friend dropped off and we watch her, sitting on the kitchen floor, slowly and almost somnambulistically chew it, bit by bit.

But your patience will be more than rewarded. A Ghost Story has images, ideas, a deep reservoir of sadness about life, death, and grief, that will stay with me for a while. It unsettled me, deeply, and rocked me way out of my comfort zone. More films should do that.




Meet The Author
Max Weiss is the managing editor of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.

You May Also Like

MaxSpace

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Tragicomedy has some jarring tonal shifts, but at least gives us a Frances McDormand performance for the ages.

MaxSpace

Review: The Disaster Artist

The true—and hilarious—story behind the worst film ever made.

Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: November 2017

The latest from Amy Reid and local musicians pay tribute to Leonard Cohen.


Arts District

Baltimore Artist Amy Sherald To Paint Portrait Of Michelle Obama

Work to become part of the National Portrait Gallery's collection

Arts District

Michael Reilly Perfects the Art of Puppetry for Lion King Production

Behind the strings of the hit broadway musical coming to The Hippodrome.

MaxSpace

Review: Wonder Wheel

Woody Allen pays homage to the great American plays of the 1950s.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Foraged to Replace Aromes in Hampden This Month: Chef Chris Amendola’s first solo project will showcase his passion for foraging.

The Most Festive, Family-Friendly Holiday Events : From bright lights to dancing sugar plum fairies, enjoy these kid-friendly happenings.

DIY Holiday Classes and Workshops: Make your own wreaths, cards, ornaments, and more at these local classes.

Urban Axes Will Bring Hatchet-Throwing and Beer to Highlandtown : Coming in 2018, new space encourages beginners to try axe-throwing.

Ray Lewis Named Hall of Fame Semifinalist: Ex-Ravens great still generating controversy and expected to join Jonathan Ogden in Canton.