It is moments like these that the film grabs you and never lets go. By establishing his unwavering commitment to lingering in this sole location, through many static shots, it makes Lowery’s expansive vision to come all the more affecting. A Ghost Story is a stunning meditation on the passage of time and is one of the most original, narratively audacious films you will probably ever see. The film was shot in Austin just a few days after Pete’s Dragon was completed, and the film is surprising at every single turn. Early introductions of a portal into the afterlife to ghosts speaking to each other about finding peace (with subtitles). It manages a variety of tones, from the otherworldly to the slyly funny to the emotionally devastating. Mara and Affleck collaborate in the stillness of grief. The initial inherent goofiness of the image of a caped Affleck with eye holes cut out as he stands around corners of their house quickly washes away when Lowery centres the focus on M’s devastation, rendered by Rooney Mara’s in one of her most affecting performances. An infatuation with our place in the universe has been in the writer-director’s other works, but the grappling with what awaits long after we’re six feet under is extraordinarily brought to life. The less known about the narrative turns, the better, as Lowery is gradually able to show the cyclical way of nature, and man altering it, in an astounding way. By framing the film around an intimate quarrel about the couple’s home, it helps give a personal attachment when the scale cosmically expands. The pristine cinematography of Andrew Droz Palermo, captured with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and vignette corners, gives the feeling of each frame being a moving painting, especially the first half of the movie. As the Weerasethakul-inspired cinematography incrementally becomes more expansive and kinetic to fit the narrative turns of the story, Daniel Hart’s score – including Affleck’s effective rendition of his song “I Get Overwhelmed”, becomes more lyrical and emotionally stirring. The psychological weight of our certain death and the fact that life will go on long after we are departed is difficult to visually convey, but A Ghost Story is one of the most poignant films to ever tackle with this existential question. It’s a singular feat of enthralling storytelling that is going to leave a lasting impression centuries after everyone has passed away, but as the character Will Oldham ponders in this film, humanity will eventually perish. It is not a comforting thought, but A Ghost Story leaves enough room for the viewer to find peace in the reflection.
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