Cinematic Releases: There's No Place Like Home: A Ghost Story (2017) - Reviewed

A Ghost Story isn't a horror film. Director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) has crafted something much more existential and profound with this film--a love story that transcends time and physics. A young couple known only as C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) live in a small suburban house together and are having some relationship difficulties. M wants to leave the house and move somewhere new and C is attached to the place and doesn't want to leave. Unfortunately, before this can be resolved an accident befalls C and he becomes a ghost, wandering aimlessly throughout the house witnessing various events unfold in front of him.

The design of C's ghost is the first interesting aspect of A Ghost Story. He wears a sheet over his body with black holes cut out for the eyes, just like in a cartoon or children's story. The juxtaposition between the traditionally silly imagery and the gravitas of the actual story is intriguing. If one can let go of their predisposed notions of how symbols can be used then it makes it easier to take in the message that this film is trying to convey. C's ghost walks slowly and deliberately through the hallways of his former home, quietly (for the most part) observing his wife's aching grief over his death. All he has is time, yet time is short for those that he loves.

Time is another strange aspect of this film. As we all know, time is relative and so the way C perceives it is different than those that inhabit a physical body. He is outside of time and what seems like seconds to him translates to months in real time. Lowery makes the audience acutely aware of time as well with many long takes and lingering scenes. A Ghost Story is about the space between events more than the events themselves which is a territory not traveled much in films, especially American ones. 

Daniel Hart's score for A Ghost Story is fantastic and haunting. It's a mixture of somber violins and piano music mixed with dissonant electronic themes and  creative sound design. It's more sad than scary, but it occasionally creeps into unsettling territory. The cinematography is gorgeous and the editing for the film is excellent. It handles the time shifting concept beautifully as this film takes you both to the far future and the distant past. Even the aspect ratio chosen for the film (1.33.1 with rounded-off corners) has a hand in telling the story. It's purposely boxed-in, imparting a feeling of claustrophobia.

People have such a connection with relationships that they cultivate, the home that they keep, and the lives that they have built. It's hard to change or to let go of the familiar and sometimes we let ourselves become ghosts in our own realities. We cover ourselves up and can only see with tunnel vision (not unlike looking through two small eye-holes cut into a sheet). This film is trying to tell us to not become so myopic that we can't see what's going on around us. Take off the sheet and be free.

 --Michelle Kisner