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“A Ghost Story” represents the epitome of summer counter programming

Back in January at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the more anticipated titles to debut was David Lowery’s latest. It was the spooky sounding A Ghost Story, which reunited Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara with the filmmaker. Folks in Park City were surprised, and in many cases, delighted, to find that this was instead an artful meditation on death and time. In fact, IMDb describes it as a “singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence”. The movie received some of the fest’s strongest reviews, and now, after a slow build up at other festivals, it gets set to hit theaters this week. The film has gotten the reputation as one of the more acclaimed independent titles of 2017 so far. Having just seen it this week, it’s fresh in my mind, so let us discuss it a bit!

The movie is a drama about grief and moving on, or in this case…not. For couple C (Affleck) and M (Mara), their relationship is torn apart when he is killed in a car accident. She grieves in their home, but soon C has returned as a white-sheeted ghost. He observes silently as she goes through the stages of grief, but that’s just a start. Where things go, you’ll have to see in order to believe. The less said about what happens the better, but it may very well break your heart. Lowery writes and directs. The cast is mostly Affleck and Mara, but Will Oldham does pop up in a small supporting role. The captivating cinematography is by Andrew Droz Palermo, while Daniel Hart composes a really strong score.

This flick, above all else, is a showcase for the directorial talents of Lowery. He takes a somewhat thin premise, along with what could be considered a bit of a gimmick (a ghost as a man with a white sheet over him should normally generate laughter more so than emotion), and crafts something that many have agreed is rather unique and even touching. Personally, I utterly loved it. The film holds you at arm’s length initially, but by the midway point, it has become profoundly sad. Once you see what Lowery fully is getting at, it’s almost impossible not to be moved. It’s a hard sit, but worth it.

Awards wise, A Ghost Story is a definite long shot for anything major. The film is just too small for that sort of attention. To be fair, the Gotham Awards or the Independent Spirit Award could take a real shine to it, but Oscar almost assuredly won’t come calling. Some might try to make the case for it in Best Picture, Best Director (for Lowery), Best Actor (for Affleck), Best Actress (for Mara), and Best Original Screenplay (also for Lowery). Just don’t expect the Academy to notice it, sadly. That’s just the way it goes for little titles right now. One day that might change, but that day is not today. Alas.

Starting today, A Ghost Story will be haunting indie theaters and showing audiences what critics have been raving about so far. It won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure, but if you don’t mind challenging cinema, this is top notch. A24 is releasing this one, and if any company can handle it properly, it’s that one. Over the course of the summer, indie audiences will see this as potential counter programming, and if blockbusters aren’t your thing, this could be right up your alley. Take a walk on the adventurous side, find out where this movie is playing, and give it a shot. You may just fall in love with it…

Be sure to check out A Ghost Story, in select theaters this weekend and expanding in the weeks to come!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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