A Ghost Story Review

“… I feel the need to rewatch it just to try and figure it out, and that’s something I never thought I would say about this movie.”

Last night I finally got around to watching A Ghost Story and the most surprising thing about it was that I didn’t hate it. A Ghost Story is a movie released by distribution company A24, which means that it can fit into one of two camps: really good, or absolutely dreadful. And given the plot or any promotional material, literally a dude in a sheet like a cartoon ghost, I assumed that it would fall into the latter camp. But that wasn’t exactly true.

There are a lot of things that I dislike about A Ghost Story; things that should make me hate the movie. For instance I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down and watched a movie more boring than this one. A Ghost Story really plays fast and loose with the attention span of the audience by making you watch Rooney Mara eat a pie for five minutes as well as other things of the sort. I’m not exaggerating when I say that nothing happens in this movie. Even when there are things happening, nothing happens. And when something does happen, it happens off-screen. It is infuriating to sit there and witness the build up expecting something to finally take place, only to see a dude in a sheet get up from a hospital table and start to walk slowly from scene to scene. It was like a slap in the face; proof of the idea that if the audience is pretentious enough you can make them watch literally anything if it has the right ‘feel’. But then something changed.

A Ghost Story took this bizarre, almost childish idea and did something with it that blew me away. The movie actually started to tackle adult subjects like grief and loss, and it did so in a way that I connected with. I’m not sure if this was a case of “right place, right time” for me watching the movie and seeing anything but a stupid ghost walking around slowly, but whatever it is it spoke to me. I felt that while the imagery is a little juvenile, the message most definitely exists in a very powerful way. Especially as the movie continues and focus shifts from one character to another; but then A Ghost Story did something even more weird by shifting the message as well.

A Ghost Story starts off as a movie about grief. Somebody dies, and we get to see the impact that has on the people in their life. The focus then shifts so we see the impact it has on the person who has died. But then we get into a really nihilist story arc about how nothing matters and the world is going to end anyway. And it’s not wrong, especially if you are as pessimistic as me, but it felt out of place. I didn’t know what the focus of the movie was anymore. A Ghost Story starts off with a beautiful anecdote about how one of the characters always leaves a note when she has to movie out of a house, that way if she ever goes back she knows that there is a piece of her there. This inclusion kind of muddled the story in my opinion as it made me wonder what the focus of the movie was toward the end. Are we supposed to be grieving for the person, or the place? And to be honest I still don’t know.

A Ghost Story started off with beautiful glances at a relationship, but then it shifts gears to poetic shots of the home. Maybe its a metaphor, maybe I just didn’t get it; maybe it’s both. Either way I feel the need to rewatch it just to try and figure it out, and that’s something I never thought I would say about this movie.

I give A Ghost Story a C

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