A Ghost Story ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.


Most skillful use of the Academy ratio I've seen in ages, particularly in the way that Lowery emphasizes depth—it's rare to see front/back take such precedence over left/right (and that's true even before there's a ghost in the foreground or background of every shot; I was weirdly excited just watching Mara drag furniture from the house to the curb). Also perhaps the closest approximation to celluloid I've yet seen from a digital camera, at least as viewed on a TV set. Loved the idea of a silent ghost as protagonist; loved the representation of said ghost as a sheet with two eyeholes; loved the extent to which Lowery conceives the film as a series of liminal spaces and temporal ellipses rather than as a narrative; loved the unexpected shift from the personal to the cosmic. In summary, I was loving the hell out of this movie.

But then Will Oldham proceeded to deliver a lengthy monologue explicating the film's thesis.

And then the ghost went back in time.

In hindsight, I should have seen the latter coming. Once Affleck becomes the titular spook, only an Interstellar-style time loop plausibly explains those mysterious noises at the outset. Forgot all about 'em until the pioneers showed up, though, at which point I immediately knew exactly where A Ghost Story was headed, right down to the final shot. (Did briefly wonder whether it would show two Affleck-ghosts haunting the house simultaneously, as logic would demand. Indeed it would!) And that's just such a comparatively paltry bow to tie, especially given the arbitrary means of circling back to the ribbon. We see so little of "C" and "M" prior to the car accident that their mourning across separate planes of existence functions purely on an abstract level—ideal for a movie that unexpectedly abandons its apparent central relationship in order to monitor a fixed point in space over time, but ruinous when the abandonment turns out to be a feint.

Avant-garde experiment about a ghost rooted to one spot for eternity, or conventionally satisfying narrative about a time-traveling ghost seeking emotional closure. Pick one or the other. Not both.