FilmReview: A Ghost Story…

I DID remark as we walked out of the cinema: ‘He is going to need some Vanish on that’, referring to the central character’s costume having been dragged across numerous fields.

I rarely pass up an opportunity for a joke and I did it to break the silence of contemplation following the viewing of A Ghost Story. But despite my comment raising a smile and a snort of appreciation, I secretly regretted it as it felt disrespectful to a film the likes of which are very necessary indeed to challenge ideas, to provoke thought, to ask questions, to rouse feelings and to stay with you for a little while.

Brave was the move to cover Oscar-winner Casey Affleck in a sheet for the vast majority of the movie. If you haven’t seen it as yet, or even the trailer, ask a child to draw a ghost – no doubt complete with dark-disc eye holes – and you’re there. That’s all the wardrobe department had to handle.

It should be absurd by rights. But it isn’t. It is absorbing and somehow, despite him looking like a pesky Halloween doorbell-ringer, Affleck emits from under those threads a desperate, aching loneliness. You know how cumbersome changing a double duvet cover can be and yet Affleck brings an ethereal quality to the laundry. All strange and beautiful.

Rather than concentrate on how a ghost affects the world, writer/director David Lowery concentrates on how the world moving along without him affects the ghost. And forlorn is an understatement.

We see Affleck uncovered early on – fine beard and finer oblique’s erupting from his pyjama pants as he, a musician known only as C, and his wife M (Rooney Mara) spend quiet, intimate moments entwined on the sofa and in their own bed clothes, limbs tangled and forehead kisses aplenty. They investigate an inexplicable twinkle on the piano keys in the middle of the night.

The camera lingers longer than is comfortable for a human being to take. It’s an unnerving sensation. We are only watching real life play out; however, those extra seconds – 20, 30 – make you feel a little uncomfortable, like a voyeur.

Never is that truer than after C’s life ends in a car smash and he rises from his mortuary slab, returns to the humble bungalow and watches M’s grief unleash. She takes it out on a homemade pie, an attempt to quell the pain for a moment or to fill the emptiness. She sits on the kitchen floor and rams the pastry down for five long minutes. That choked me.

The ghost, invisible to all except a floral spectre next door in the same cotton-clad purgatory, stands and waits and spectates with time accelerating in a way we cannot fathom, swirling between centuries.

There are no CGI monkeys or dinosaurs or explosions in space. The ruminations on death, on the passing of time, on legacy, on meaning and purpose are rendered all the more powerful coming from its simplicity. It is all framed squarely with a nostalgic hue.

This film does not put the willies up you – there is the token light flash, but a window tap and a digger bucket provide the greatest jumps. It also does not provide comfort at the prospect of what comes next. I am still deciphering how it made me feel.

It was released a few weeks back and I had to search to find a screening. It is certainly not going to appeal to the masses. Go with patience and an open mind and then go with what it evokes from the depiction of love and longing. I guarantee it won’t be like anything else you see this year. It is haunting – literally and otherwise.

I’ll finish with a different type of pain – standing on a piece of Lego. We’re all ever so grateful to its inventor Ole Kirk Christiansen when we find an errant piece with the sole of our foot lurking in the carpet aren’t we.

The eight pairs of competitors in new Channel 4 series Lego Masters (available on Catch Up after screening on Thursdays) have one million pieces (700 varieties in 40 colours) to choose from in the treasure trove of a Build Room with which to let their imaginations run loose during various tasks. The judges change from week to week. I’m just hoping their personalities improve as episode one’s were, um, somewhat brick-like.  

I’m firmly in the camp of Team Abraham and Guy, nine-year-old scamps who I want to wipe the floor with the duo with engineering degrees who were endearingly nerdy, but tried to be just a tad too clever.

It made me laugh when the Lego artistic director (yes, that is a job) criticised the girl team as their banana looked like a corn on the cob. I honestly wouldn’t know where to start. And as for the Lego poo…well!

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