Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Will Oldham, Liz Franke, Sonia Acevedo, Carlos Bermudez, Yasmina Gutierrez, Kenneisha Thompson, Barlow Jacobs
Written by: David Lowery
Directed by: David Lowery
MPAA Rating: R for brief language and a disturbing image
Running Time: 92
Date: 07/14/2017

A Ghost Story (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sheet Music

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This very special movie casts a fine, delicate spell; many may resist it, but those that go along with it may find themselves profoundly moved, transported to a soul-stirring, poetically cosmic place.

In A Ghost Story, a couple lives together in a small Texas house, and argues. "C" (Casey Affleck) wants to stay in the house, but "M" (Rooney Mara) wants to move out. She's used to moving around, and likes to hide little notes, stuck in the walls of homes she's lived in, as a way of leaving a little piece of herself behind. The next day, "C" dies in a car crash, and returns as a ghost.

He silently watches her grieving (she binge-eats most of a fresh apple pie), recovering, and eventually leaving. He watches others move into the house, sometimes haunting them, sometimes not. Time moves on, and things come and go. The picture grows larger, more cosmic, but the only thing the ghost really wants to see is what "M" left on her scrap of paper before she left their home.

Writer/director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Pete's Dragon) has created a deceptively small movie, confined in space (using the squarish, 1-to-1.33 screen aspect ratio), with very little dialogue and simple, spare effects. (The ghost is very deliberately nothing more than a guy in a sheet.)

However, this simplicity is used to conjure mighty emotional reactions. Long, slow, still shots allow viewers to reflect on grief, death, life, love, and other things, while more startling transitions, such as breathtaking leaps through time, arouse larger, more existential questions.

The haunting sound design and music are always note-perfect, and rarely, if ever, break the mood. A Ghost Story is everything from a heartbreakingly simple love story to a rumination on the meaning of place in our lives, to a pondering of life itself.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release, which also includes a digital copy, happily preserves the movie's wonderful aspect ratio (with rounded corners), and is a pleasure to look at on the home screen. Extras include a commentary track with director David Lowery, cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo, production designer Jade Healy, and composer Daniel Hart, a 30-minute making-of featurette, a short featurette on the composer, and a deleted scene, as well as trailers.

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