Second Sight: The Poetry of A Ghost Story

Films like David Lowery's A Ghost Story are secondhand treasures. They are discarded, often lonely vessels bound with the spirits of someone else's life, viewed through the lenses of personal experience and regret. It is these stolen memories that often resonate within us, reminding us of the power of one's first kiss or the formidable magic of childlike imagination as we trace our hands across a dusty curio at a yard sale. Lowery's living poem is a testament to the cosmic mysteries of life, as explored through the finality of death. The result is a heartbreaking, empowering, and somber sleepwalk through the minds of the forgotten into the hearts of those left behind. 

C is a musician who is desperate to dissuade his wife M from selling their house in a quiet Texas town. Tragedy sends C to the other side, forcing him (in ghostly attire) to observe life outside of time, watching his loved ones move on and reality continue to lumber towards extinction on the ruins of what was once his life. As with the plot, the performances are more ideas than actual characters, with the actions of both the living and the dead serving as symbols for incommunicable bereavement and supernatural obsession. Rooney Mara's performance as M goes beyond tangible bereavement into near ethereal realms of loss. She is both a living talisman of renewal and a broken fixture of discord, consuming an entire pie in one wonderfully egregious long take and laying comfortably in the ruins of her loss in the next. This is one of the many humours that courses through A Ghost Story's whimsical heart. Love and loss are more than cinematic iconography, instantly recognizable via trope or misguided pastiche. This is an experience of the species, and it aims to delve into places not often explored. The most refreshing aspect is that it bends towards the light while the majority of its counterparts seek to take advantage of the darkness inherit to such topics. 

Lowery's editing, with an assist from auteur master Shane Carruth, is the centerpiece, using extremely difficult and subdued cuts to string together a harmonious sojourn through the beyond, given form by Andrew Droz Palermo's whispering cinematography. The absurd premise of the main character remaining enshrouded in a childish avatar for fear is initially disconcerting, possibly insulting, however, as C's journey transcends accepted narrative conventions and delves into the cyclical concepts of life, death, and obsessive regret, the invaluable power of humor is revealed as one of the final vestiges of harmony when facing down the inescapable void of humanity's inconsequential presence in the universe. The small, compact timeline jumps between the present, future, and past, but nothing feels rushed, with each significant glimpse of a soul out of time reinforcing the simplicity of the first act, forming a perfect, tranquil circle of existence.

One of the film's greatest sequences involves a frontier family, carving a niche on the plains of manifest destiny and meeting the denizens of the wild in bloody matrimony. The digging of holes for a fence is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's bloody and brilliant opus Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West, however, where McCarthy's tome is on destiny and the violence in men's hearts, Lowery's thesis is humble and yearning. The human race lives in the extremities of its creation. Every social media discourse is a seething debate, every good-natured proclamation is a definitive declaration of intent and meaning, and yet Lowery's vision implies that the simple truths of death and recovery are not existential horrors, but magical, even hopeful parts of the human experience. 
Available now for digital streaming, A Ghost Story is a slow, warm embrace that rewards patience and compassion with a remarkably candid exploration of the great unknown. A metaphysical poem for the digital age, David Lowery's outstanding effort is nothing short of heartwarming. With the ever-growing darkness that continues to divide one another day by day, it's pictures such as this that are essential weapons in the war of compassion.

-Kyle Jonathan