Rooney Mara

A Ghost Story

14/08/17

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few months, you’ll already have heard about this film. It’s the one where Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck spends most of his time hidden under a bed-sheet – the one where Rooney Mara has to eat an entire chocolate pie in one take, even though she’s never actually eaten pie before… Seldom has so much information been spread in advance of a film’s release. And then there’s that killer trailer, which really raised my expectations for this.

So, is the actual film any good? Well, the answer to that question isn’t as straightforward as you might hope.

This is the story of handsome young couple, C (Casey Affleck), and M (Rooney Mara), living together in a modest clapboard house, somewhere deep in the heart of Texas. When C is killed in a car crash  – don’t worry, this really isn’t a spoiler – he somehow finds himself rising up from his death bed, cloaked in his funeral shroud. He returns to his house, where he watches in silence as M goes through a lengthy grieving process before finally moving on with her life and leaving for pastures new. C is doomed to remain tied to the house, waiting for something – we’re not sure exactly what – to happen and, as we eventually witness, he is destined to be there for eternity, even able to somehow loop back around to revisit the past.

The film unfolds at such a funereal pace, it makes a Terence Malick film seem like Fast and Furious by comparison. Indeed, at times it’s less like a motion picture and more like watching a series of still images in an art gallery. Obviously, this is no accident on the part of writer/director David Lowery, who clearly wants you to meditate deeply on the subjects of bereavement, mourning and the passing of time, but I’d be lying if I claimed that the film doesn’t sometimes test my patience to the extreme. Which is not to say that there aren’t some brilliant ideas in here. There are, but they take an inordinate amount of time to reveal themselves. The conviction remains that this could have been a brilliant short but, even at an economical 92 minutes, it drags its heels more than you’d like.

Weirdly, the images do tend to stay with you long after the closing credits, but this doesn’t feel like enough to recommend it to others. It feels to me that there’s the ghost of a very good movie in there somewhere, but it’s too tightly wrapped in its funeral shroud to ever claw its way out. Definitely a marmite film, this, and I’m already bracing myself to hear from those who will inevitably jump to its defence. But I was left wanting more. And that makes A Ghost Story a major disappointment.

2.5 stars

Philip Caveney

Advertisements

Carol

MV5BMTcxNTkxMzA5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTI0ODMzNzE@._V1_SX214_AL_

28/11/15

Director Todd Haynes seems to belong to another age. His films effortlessly capture the look and feel of the 1950s – the fashions, the furniture and, more than anything else, the cigarettes – not since the days of Bette Davis has a film made the simple act of smoking a cigarette look so downright glamorous. The characters light up everywhere – in restaurants, bars and in the street. (Even staunch anti smokers may leave the cinema longing for a cigarette). Despite its presumably unconscious promotion of nicotine, Carol may just be Hayne’s best movie yet. It’s a love story, a slow burner told at a languorous pace, featuring two fine performances from its lead actors.

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) works in a department store, but harbours dreams of one day being a professional photographer. One Christmas, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) comes looking for a present for her daughter and Therese sells her a train set. When she leaves, Carol leaves her gloves on the counter (accidentally? On purpose? We’re never quite sure). There is an immediate connection between the two women and when Therese takes the trouble to return the gloves, Carol invites her to lunch. We soon discover that Carol is separated from her husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), largely because of an affair she has recently had with Abbi (Sarah Paulson). When Harge discovers the developing friendship between Therese and Carol, he decides to make life difficult for his wife, and claims custody of their daughter. Carol is faced with a difficult decision.

There’s so much to admire here – as well as perfectly judged performances from the cast, there’s glowing cinematography by Edward Lachman, a gorgeous score by Carter Burwell and an intelligent script by Phyllis Nagy, based on an early novel by Patricia Highsmith. The production simply oozes class and I loved the fact that it steadfastly refuses to sensationalise its subject matter. You might argue that there’s more than a passing similarity to Hayne’s 2002 production, Far From Heaven, but when the staging is as swooningly assured as this, it’s a resemblance I’m prepared to overlook.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney