A film that made some big waves whilst doing this festival rounds earlier this year was David Lowery's A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara - one of my most anticipated films of the year - and it was worth all of the buzz and the hype.

Lowery, coming hot off of last year's brilliant live-action Pete's Dragon for Disney, wrote A Ghost Story within a day and then proceeded to film it all within about a month or so, on his "vacation" from the aforementioned blockbuster. The film follows recent Academy-Award winner Casey Affleck in a bedsheet, as the ghost of the recently passed C, haunting the house he lived in and his mourning wife, M (Rooney Mara). Yet, this isn't a horror film in the slightest. If anything, it's the complete opposite. On paper, this is such an unusual film that shouldn't work. And it is certainly a very weird and off-kilter film but it is equally as remarkable too. In fact, A Ghost Story is one of the best films of the decade. Who would have ever thought that a film, written on a whim, utilising the imagery of someone under a bedsheet as a ghost, could be so masterful?
Honestly, putting the journey and the experience this film takes us on into words is quite the task. It's an esoteric and often meditative exploration of love, life and loss and the enormity of it all through the occult. And it's astonishing. Given that Lowery wrote this film to help him find his peace during an existential crisis, it clearly shows; this is a story that toys with big, celestial and existential ideas to such a deep extent - nuance permeating every frame. Dialogue is used sparingly throughout this film, with imagery and visual poetry acting as Lowery's biggest tool here. There's a lyrical and transfixing nature to it all; the camera-work is simple and often just lingers on its subjects for some time, soaking them in - sometimes uncomfortably so. There are many long, unbroken takes of pure silence and imagery, yet you can't help but hold your gaze because of how enthralling and moving a piece this is (one of the most powerful scenes is just Rooney Mara devouring a pie for a few, long, sullen minutes, before throwing it back up again but it's audacious and moving and the perfect summation for what this film has to offer). Visually, it's gorgeous. The cinematography is poetic and mesmerising and the 4:3 aspect ratio grounds this film with such a beautiful authenticity.

A Ghost Story is very much so a thematic piece, with all its depth hidden beneath the surface in the subtext and the intricate nuances the film so subliminally details. It's a very out-of-body experience, so ethereal and cosmic. Lowery's work here is of such astounding finesse; the direction feels delicate, constantly thoughtful and provocative and the minimal writing is sharp and sublime. He has managed to craft something so genuinely special and different. I have never seen anything like this. It's so unusual and weird in its approach - thematically, and in its storytelling - but quite deftly so; boasting a welcomed audacity, constantly taking risks and subverting expectations - just when you think its out of surprises, it has another trick up its sleeve. Of course, it's needless to say but the originality of the writing on offer here is so great to see too. With all of the blockbusters and reboots and sequels that Hollywood is currently obsessed with, it feels refreshing to see a story that eschews the typical cinema conventions and is so unique and so intellectually challenging and out-there. Lowery channels his inner-Terence Malick here, through the use of lots of lingering, swirling shots; this is also a very divisive film and there is minimal story and a focus on visual poetry. However, unlike something like Song to Song, A Ghost Story is mysterious and cut with such deep subtlety that begs to be explored on such an intellectual surface.

Given the film can rivet us with such minimal dialogue and exposition is quite the achievement. We invest in a relationship between a couple we only see on-screen together so briefly; these characters remain nameless throughout and share such little dialogue; we end up caring immensely for a man under a bedsheet, that never says a word. Now, that's impressive writing. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara work magic together; their chemistry is palpable and felt, making it easy to believe their love and invest in their relationship. Mara, especially, gives a subdued and reserved turn here but one that is incredibly impactful as we can feel her pain and her loss; Affleck, hot off an Oscar for an emotionally-charged performance in the sombre Manchester By The Sea, is very dialled down here: spending the majority of this screen time under a bed-sheet. However, it's a truly exquisite performance, because we feel for him and feel the emotion. And we don't need to see or hear him too, because of the brief time we spend with him without the sheet that makes us invest in him.

Frankly, it's hard to put A Ghost Story into words. It's an even more difficult task to describe the ethereal, out-of-body experience this film takes us on. But David Lowery has created something so genuinely special and unbelievably extraordinary with this film. It's not for everyone. But, for those that enjoy very unusual, artistic experiences, you won't find anything showing this year that's better than A Ghost Story. It's a story that demands to be felt; it will marinate in your mind, leaving you feeling emotionally and spiritually damaged and confused and perhaps even nihilistic. It's a meditative and lyrical indie that will stir your deepest emotions and leave you mulling over its big questions for weeks to come. There is genuinely nothing out there like this; it's an unequivocal, unorthodox and unusual work of art. Oh, and Daniel Hart's masterful and poignant score is a resounding triumph that is just the sweet, sweet cherry atop this already spectacular and delicious cake of brilliance. A Ghost Story is a sweeping, grandiose journey through love, life and loss conveyed by the occult and it is sheer magnificence. David Lowery, you are a genius. I applaud you.

VERDICT:
A Ghost Story is one of the best films of the decade; a meditative and lyrical journey that is unequivocal and genius.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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