Do you really believe in ghosts?

Review: A Ghost Story

Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Will Oldham

To all of the film and theological students out there, this  haunting drama that should be analysed for decades to come. That is of course if they can make it to the end of the ghost’s journey, which will exasperate many and may lull the audience into a contemplative stupor.

Nevertheless, the minimalist style of director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) proves that contemplative stories should not be reliant on dialogue or special effects to deliver a message. C (Casey Affleck) is a struggling musician who is living with his wife, M (Rooney Mara), in a semi-rural American home. M curiously leaves behind messages in cracks and crevices of the homes where she lives, in an attempt to leave behind parts of her wherever she goes. This act plays on the questions raised throughout the film of how we are remembered, if at all. This young couple’s life is forever jarred when C dies in a car accident. After he is declared, C awakens as a ghost and remains under the sheet from the hospital bed. He finds his way back to his home and observes what life is like for his cherished bride. Unaware that his spirit is following her through her new life, M eventually moves away and leaves her husband’s ghost behind. The ghost is left to experience the history that follows within the house as he attempts to retrieve the message hidden in the walls from his love.

Celebrated at a multitude of film festivals, A24 chose to pick up the distribution of this pensive and austere look into life after death. For fans of Casey Affleck or Rooney Mara, this journey is not reliant on their personalities to drive the film ahead. Neither has much dialogue and do not share the screen throughout the majority of the film. This is truly a psychological and spiritual journey that will test the resolve of the audience and should lead to complex discussions of death.

A Ghost Story is the quintessential art film. It is hard to say that this film will entertain audiences as much as it will move them. In an era of overly produced sequels, this is at the opposite end of the consideration. Every moment seems to contain a philosophical point and contains haunting visual effects, but will not appeal to the vast majority of modern audiences. If the viewer is able to make it through to the end, they must be satisfied with more questions than answers to all that Lowery is attempting to communicate.

Looking Deeper 

It is hard to miss the driving point at the heart of A Ghost Story. David Lowery’s life, death and what comes after is a depressing and tedious consideration. This thoughtful view of life has its roots in a godless world and contains little hope or joy. There is no heaven; there is no hell, just a bizarre non-existence that lacks any appeal.

As the lights came on after the screening, the emotion that countered the intent of the film was the feeling of peace. Despite this dejecting view of eternity, knowing the hope that is provided in the Bible was a refreshing and appealing look into the afterlife. Within the conversations that will inevitably follow after seeing Lowery’s view of life after death, people will have to confront the realities of the brevity of life and how to understand it.

This would be a great time to pick up a Bible and open to the end. Yes, it is okay to read ahead. Revelation is a cracker of a book and one worth sitting down and discussing with a friend about the hope that can come in a discussion about the inevitable end to life.

What does the Bible say about when the world will end?  Matthew, 24:36, Revelation 20:1-15.

What does the Bible say about the sanctity of life? Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139: 13-16, Matthew 5:21-22.

What sacrifice does God make to save mankind? Luke 23-24.

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger.



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