Sundance Review: 'A Ghost Story' is a haunting meditation on here and hereafter

(KUTV) When I received the press release for “A Ghost Story,” the new film from David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints"), it instantly topped my “must-see” list. Partly because of Lowery’s ability to capture a mood without over saturating his films with dialogue, but also because it featured the logo for A24, one of the more progressive independent film studios around today.

A Tweet from a colleague suggested that I wasn’t the only one who had made the film a priority at this year’s festival. As a result I arrived 90 minutes before the movie was scheduled to screen and was only slightly surprised to find that dozens of other press and industry types had already taken their place in line. Had I arrived 15 minutes later, well, there’s no promise that I would have made it into the screening.

“A Ghost Story” is a quiet, beautiful film accented by a fantastic score by Daniel Hart. It follows a woman (Rooney Mara) and a man (Casey Affleck), a nameless young couple seemingly in love despite the subtlety suggested detail that they struggle with seeing their partner’s point of view.

Tragedy strikes. She is caught alone in a house she never really liked. He’s bound, a ghost in a white sheet, to watch as she suffers through his absence. She moves on. He remains as time moves forward in days, decades and centuries.

This is cinema on an intimate level. It’s cerebral in the sense that it asks you to be introspective and discover a personal meaning to what you are watching. It uses death as a muse; a beginning that is an end is also an end and a beginning. A circular rhythm that layers detail upon detail and builds to a conclusion that offers a more complete picture of the relationship between the man and the woman who was left behind.

Lowery’s use of extended takes initially emphasizes the mundane qualities of life, only to later reveal that even these moments are filled with a certain beauty. Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo dresses the scenes in muted colors and a bit of polish that slowly wears away with time.

And yet, the man in the bed sheet is certainly a bit absurd. How seriously are we to take this sheeted figure? What binds him to this place? Is this simply “Ghost” without Whoopi Goldberg and the pottery scene?

For me? No. It is a starting point for my own journey through a world of ghosts, lost chances and a future that I can’t completely control.

For the one character in the film with an extended monologue or the audience member who prefers to be spoon-fed? They’ll see it all differently.

“A Ghost Story” isn’t talking down to its audience. It is trying to engage it in a deeply personal conversation. If you respond, then you might just visit places you haven’t seen inside and outside of yourself.

Festival Screenings:

TUE 1/24 2:30PM The Marc

THU 1/26 8:30AM Prospector Square Theatre

FRI 1/27 11:30AM Prospector Square Theatre

SAT 1/28 3:30PM Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off