Whitney’s review published on Letterboxd:
A Ghost Story
(I am not even remotely happy with this review and I am quite disappointed in myself for taking so long and for this not being okay, I promise one day, one day, I will write a review this film abundantly deserves, I’m sorry)
I am a person who writes very quickly and can usually churn out some semblance of words the moment I finish watching a film, allow me to preface this by saying that A Ghost Story was within my top ten most anticipated films of the year, I have been looking forward to seeing it since January and I have truly been so excited to write about it, so I thought. I have never suffered from writers block as intensely as I have this week, it is as if my brain knows I so wanted to write about this film and my desire to make this a decent review and a touching one at best, because this film is so brilliant and breaks your heart and makes you question your entire existence, but words simply were not coming to me. I have written sentences here and there but it wasn’t until today, Mandie’s birthday, that the words finally began their release from my crowded brain.
Images of her hands blast my memory, when I first read the words ‘Rest in Peace’, her hands were all that my brain could focus on that day in December, the only words I could muster while screaming into the chest of my Mother were “But I just saw her, I just saw her!” Mandie died tragically in oddly the same manner Casey Affleck’s character died, in a car accident a mile from her home. All I could think about were her hands. Even when I think of her now, three years later, that is the first thing I see when I think of her. Her hands.
Lowery is a very masterful emotional Director, you are feeling this ghost’s isolation, his anger, his frustration, you are feeling his eternity alongside him. Lowery makes it clear that even the dead have feelings, that is something that we will never escape, our feelings still have the ability to get hurt even after we die.
Self-reflection is one of my favorite activities, it is something I tend to practice almost to a fault, in the end I believe A Ghost Story is a film about self-reflection, about the conversations we have, the memories we make, the things we create, the words we say, etc. Alright, here come the long paragraphs.
The infamous pie eating scene isn’t the scene that touched me the most, as I so thought it would be after hearing so much about it for so long, that was certainly the first scene that broke me because it is so painfully accurate in terms of grief and coping, to binge and binge, and sob into your meal that someone brought over to you as a grief offering, like food will somehow cure you, you’re eating to fill the void, to fill this knot of pain in your stomach, then as soon as you step out of that mindless state, you throw up, step and repeat, until the healing steps in. Rooney’s dedication and emotional state while performing was…that is a scene I will never, ever, forget. The most human experience shared on screen.
Now to the scene that really obliterated my heart that I’m surprised I have not seen others speak about much, the scene where C is sharing his song, this song we have heard snippets of throughout but had no clue of its significance, when Rooney is listening to it with him and after his death, that short scene carries a massive meaning, and it’s just a stunning performance from Rooney, soaking in this song, her eyes closing ever so slightly at painful lines or melodies, you can feel how she feels, I think this scene and the pie scene are some of the best scenes in history that allow the viewer to fully be immersed with the character and feel their emotions, she is listening to this piece of work from the man she loves, she doesn’t appreciate it at first, but then, after he is gone, it’s the only thing left from him. We see her laying on the ground in her packed up home they shared and the camera moves slightly and her hand just barely touches the ghost’s sheet. I am embarrassed to admit that I have tears dripping down my neck right now at work as I am placing myself back into the scene, trying to remember every detail, trying to decipher every feeling I felt when I watched it, trying to understand why on earth this scene punctured my heart so deeply. I can’t put my finger on one sole reason. It was a combination of the performance by the actors, the song, and how haunting and piercing it is, and the fact that I haven’t stopped listening to it for months now, but really it’s knowing that there are things that live on from us/about us after we die that people will hold on to and seek solace through, and that is such a beautiful and human thing, and each of us have something unique and promising to share with this world, it is almost humbling and so very heartbreaking because what if some of us never find that something that makes us special, the gift that gives others around us hope, the gift that fuels us, the gift that fuels and comforts others and lives on long after our inevitably demise? It is a lot to process, a lot to take in and consider, but my goodness, it is so beautiful to even think about all we have within us, all the talents we possess, all special to us. The only immortal thing about us, is all in which we create and share.
I think I loved A Ghost Story so much because it forces you to feel. It forces you to open up yourself, your entire heart and being and to think, to just think for a second about your impact in this world, and the impacts of others around you. You don’t think about how much of an impact someone has on you until they leave this mortal existence. I loved A Ghost Story because it makes you linger on shots that make your brain go haywire and your heart go numb. I loved A Ghost Story because it is simple, it is so simple, but its themes are complex and the themes are those we turn away the second they are brought up in conversation. Feelings. Isolation. Death. Grief. How we cope. Purpose. It is all there, and Lowery smacks you right in the face with these themes.
Be at peace with the unknown, that is the beauty of it, no one knows where we go or what will happen when we die. Create. Please create. Trust that what you put into this world will mean something, maybe to a mass of people, or maybe just to one, it matters just as much.
Happy Birthday, M, thank you for your imprints on our hearts, you were able to feel more than any person I have ever met, and you never apologized for it. Thank you, thank you, for all you created. You were a creator from birth, always using your hands to paint, to sculpt, to write, to draw, to build, your hands, no wonder that’s what I see when I think of you.
It's okay, we can go.