7:30 PM, 8th September, 2017
In the back office of a factory, foreman Peter (Mendelsohn) is confronted by Una (Mara). Fifteen years ago, she knew him as Ray; he was her neighbour, and they fell into a relationship that ended with an ill-conceived plan to run off together. Now, still haunted by the fallout, Una wants to understand what went on and how she can move forward. But Peter has a new life, one that seems safe and normal, and Una’s yearning, broken desire threatens it all.
David Harrower’s stage play (originally titled “Blackbird”) is brought to the screen by Australian stage director Benedict Andrews, making his film debut. But this is no straight play-to-film translation – it uses tight, claustrophobic close-ups, flashbacks, and glimpses of the outside world to add context to this meeting of minds. It’s an adult film about how passion and obsession can inflict wounds that never heal. Incredibly confronting, both key performers seize the opportunity to create real, damaged, dangerous people in a hothouse situation.
Don’t come to this expecting easy answers or happy endings. Harrower’s play has divided audiences around the world, and Andrews presents it uncompromisingly, in all of its uncomfortable, messy nature. If you bring your partner or a friend, you will probably come out arguing about this film – so be prepared to be challenged, confronted, and provoked.
9:14 PM, 8th September, 2017
C and M are a young couple moving into a house together. After C (Affleck) dies in a car accident, he awakens to find himself as a ghost, able to walk the earth and observe. He goes to his suburban home and watches M’s life continue as she mourns him.
The quirky hook of the film is of course the rendering of the ghost. When I say ghost, I don’t mean some kind of computer-y creation; A Ghost Story features an actual man (an Academy Award winner, no less) in an actual white sheet. It’s like the easiest Halloween costume ever, but treated with all the seriousness of a real ghost.
And if you can swallow that schtick – if you can accept that this is the vision the filmmakers have set and run with it – A Ghost Story is a marvellous and rewarding picture. What appear to be cheap tricks and quirky gimmicks, like the characters names or the ghost costume, actually give way to an extraordinary and poetic film that feels so complete, focused and singular in its vision.
Ultimately, the film is something of a meditation on life, on time, on legacy, and our connections to people. It’s a slow burn, seemingly meandering in places, but ultimately a satisfying poetic experience worth every minute on the big screen.