Sunday, October 15, 2017

"The Meyerowitz Stories" Could Have Been A Standout Film This Year

I eagerly awaited the release date for writer-director Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) since hearing about the film over a year ago. The main reason I was interested was simple: Adam Sandler in a rare serious role. Understandably, as many poor films as Sandler has been in the last few years, there are still a few he's made where he's shown that he is capable of more than just funny noises and crude expressions. (2002's Punch-Drunk Love and 2004's Spanglish still hold up as brilliant dramatic roles on his resume.) Furthermore, the pairing of him with fellow comedian (and friend) Ben Stiller, the legendary Dustin Hoffman, and the always-stupendous Emma Thompson, sounded like an intriguing pairing.

The film centers on the legacy of a famous art sculptor, Harold Meyerowitz (Hoffman), whose estranged children from previous marriages reunite for a celebration of his life's work and eventually his impending health. The oldest, Danny (Sandler), is a struggling musician currently divorcing his wife, and with an 18-year-old daughter, Eliza (Grace Van Patten), on her way to college. Matthew (Stiller, a Baumbach regular) is a successful businessman whom Harold seemed to direct most of his attention and affections to. And then there's Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), an introvert who represents the sibling or family member most people would easily overlook.

Baumbach seems to specialize in stories of dysfunctional families and imperfect relationships. (His previous credits include 2005's The Squid and the Whale, 2008's Margot at the Wedding, and 2010's Greenberg). And the premise of Meyerowitz seems conventional on the surface, what with all the family members assembling under complicated circumstances. What makes Baumbach's script unique is how grounded in reality it is, and how his actors put 100-percent of themselves in their characters. This is a character-driven piece, after all; an expertly-directed one, at that. And it's easy to see why members at the Cannes Film Festival early this year went crazy for it.

In fact, it's terrific seeing Sandler in serious mode again--a case in point why he should do more similar work in his career. His willingness to not only play Danny straight but to play him with real conflict and neglect--and alongside other acting heavyweights--showcases perhaps his best screen performance to date. Ditto for Stiller, Marvel, Hoffman, Van Patten, and Thompson (as Harold's loopy current wife, Maureen). There are also many poignant scenes that illustrate the pain these characters feel towards their father, as well as the persistence they try to endure through this time. "Maybe I need to believe my dad was a genius," says Danny, "because I don't want his work to feel like crap."

(l-r) Grace Van Patten, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Elizabeth Marvel
But well-acted performances and great direction do not a great movie make. Which is why (as sad as it is for me to say) I can't mark this film as a standout feature this year.

Having been purchased by Netflix, the film was slapped with a TV-MA rating (equivalent to an R-rating or above). I knew there would be profanity issues (which there are) and other dysfunctional-related themes and content issues (which there are plenty of). After all, such stories typically tell of the feelings of disappointment, regret, or lack of success, that parents have on their children. And Harold has had that kind of effect on his children, whether through divorces or different homes or career choices or so forth. Matthew, at one point, confronts him by saying that he feels like a jerk because of his father.

But the biggest slaw that breaks the camel's back here is not so much these characters' feelings of neglect and lack of success. The biggest slaw is, in particularly, their neglect of certain current issues and effects, particularly Eliza's choice of career: pornographic filmmaking. It's bad enough audiences learn about this--twenty minutes into the film, as a matter of fact, which made me lose hope in the film. However, audiences are not treated to one, but two completely unnecessary scenes showing clips from Eliza's films, with dialogue and images too graphic to even describe. "That was really hard-R," comments Jean after viewing one of them. Harold rightfully criticizes it, saying that "people should not allow their kids to do that." To add insult to injury, Danny and Matthew later encourage Eliza in her acting endeavors. I personally found these elements degrading. Also, Harold is eager to watch new premium cable channels later on, one with a film called Sex Tape. Such is the case of irony. With all of the sexual harrassment controversy going on in our culture currently (that is, news of famous people who've been forced or forced others into sexual-related activities), is it really any different when a parent allows (and condones) their child to participate in sexual-related activities by their child's own free will? As Meyerowitz celebrates family unity and attempting to resolve past conflicts, it seems to neglect and condone such current effects.

I'll say it again. Solid acting and direction alone do not a great movie make. Therefore, I cannot place The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) on my "Standout Films of 2017" list. I wish I could.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Any Wonder That "mother!" (a.k.a. The Year's Most Controversial and Appalling Film) Has An Exclamation Point In Its Title?

An A-list cast and first-rate direction--albeit daring and experimental--can make a movie great. They can also be misleading, causing the film to be out of bounds for general audiences, for one thing. Consider Darren Aronovsky's mother!, for example. It has both the aforementioned casting and direction, but ultimately it may also be the most scathing film in years. It's certainly the most scathing thing to come to the cinema this year.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a married couple whose quiet, secluded life is interrupted by strange visitors. She's a housekeeper, and he's a struggling writer. The visitors claim to be fans of the writer husband, but the housekeeping wife is skeptical and eventually unsettled, not only by their strange behaviors, but also their two sons and eventually their other guests.

And when she becomes pregnant, another cycle comes. We sense that something bad will happen. But when it does, it turns out to be a living hell for audience members, just as it is for Lawrence's character. It's beyond horrifying. In fact, the last thirty minutes of the film are not only stomach-churning. They're beyond horrifying.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem
Aronovsky reportedly wrote his initial script in five days, like a "fever dream" and a "howl" to current world events, then put his cast through a rehearsal period of three months before shooting. The film has a haunting atmosphere, and puts an unprecedented, beyond-crazy spin on the home invasion motif. As Charlton Heston's Taylor famously quoted in Planet of the Apes, "It's a madhouse." And a nightmare, at that. Furthermore, the very hope of rebuilding a home from rubble (as the opening segment suggests) and wanting to make a paradise rapidly falls apart when others come in and carelessly tarnish it, and not just invade people's privacy.

The imagery throughout is disturbing in and of itself, from blood-stained floors and light-bulbs, to cellars illustrating boiling pots waiting to explode at any moment. But it's the writer's obsessive fans who act more like ritualistic followers, leading to an angry mob, unspeakable violence, and then disturbing carnage (like hell).

Many people will have a hard time wondering if Aronovsky's use of allegory here is either used as a contemporary parallel or as a harsh criticism towards Christianity and religion. Even director William Friedkin (no stranger to controversy himself with 1973's The Exorcist) was unsure of Aronovsky's intention during a recent interview between both filmmakers at the Producer's Guild of America (click here and here). Lawrence's "mother" is supposed to represent Mother Nature (a caregiver, a housewife), while the "husband" and "wife" (a crazy and creepy Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) are supposed to be Adam and Eve, and their two sons (real-life brothers Brian Gleeson and Domhnall Gleeson) represent Cain and Abel--with familial and violent consequences. (Did I mention even Kristen Wiig shows up as the writer's publisher?)

Lawrence hits a boiling point
But all these characters' names are written in lower case. Bardem's, on the other hand, is the only character with his name capitalized. Above all, if Bardem's "Him" is supposed to represent God (as Aronovsky has revealed in interviews), then it's the most scathing, careless, and emotionless portrayal (and possible criticism) I've ever seen. He's a character who's so overwhelmed and so into himself, his success, and how much his "followers" love him. Bardem (a phenomenal actor) becomes quietly unpredictable, and, dare I say, menacing, especially when he and Lawrence stare down over the newborn baby.

I cannot strongly state how damaging and how unbelievably appalling this film really is. If IT was a nightmarish carnival, then mother! is an insane asylum. The overall experience is also depressing, feel-bad, and horrible. Is it any wonder there's an exclamation point in the title?

"Baby Driver": Talk About a Killer Soundtrack

Somebody who attended the same screening of Baby Driver as me asked what the film was about. My spoiler-free response to her was, "Let's just say it's an unconventional heist movie." Indeed, the basic premise of Edgar Wright's film is about a getaway driver who soundtracks his life (courtesy an iPod playlist of various songs) as he escorts gangs of various trigger-happy criminals.

Known for his Cornetto trilogy of comedies (2004's Shaun of the Dead, 2007's Hot Fuzz, 2013's The World's End), Wright gets his motor running based off of a music video he directed in 2003 (Mint Royale's "Blue Song"). And the British filmmaker does it with both killer style and unexpected substance.

Baby (The Fault In Our Stars' Ansel Elgort) has chronic tinnitus from an accident he had as a kid, and still hears a hum in the eardrums. This explains why he plugs his iPod earphones in to drown out the vibrations with those on par with the Beach Boys. Then he meets a pretty diner waitress named Deborah (Cinderella's Lily James). However, Baby's boss, Doc (the always-engrossing Kevin Spacey), who's been the only father-like figure to him (other than his deaf guardian Joseph), has one last job for him. But Baby wants out, for good.

Ryan Gosling's cinematic cousin?
That's the film in a nutshell. And if any of these story elements sound familiar, they do sort of make the film fall on the conventional side. What makes Wright's script and film (his first shot in the U.S.) stand out, though, is its musical and rhythmic structure. The visual idiosyncrasies from Wright's aforementioned films are still in tact here, mostly for the purpose of the soundtrack and its numerous synchronizations, ranging from artists like Simon & Garfunkel (the film's title comes from one of their songs) to Young MC to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas to Queen. Being the music geek that I am, to a degree, I found this thoroughly engaging. The car chases, for one, are first-rate--and done for real! The opening sequence, set to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms," sells the movie from frame one and rivals some of the best openings of any film. (Check out this insightful video for a breakdown of that scene.) This sequence, as well as the one-take shot of Baby walking downtown to Dave and Sam's "Harlem Shuffle," highlight Baby's character and his dilemma. And his conversations with Deborah, who represents the life he wants to get away to, wonderfully touch on numerous songs that are about their respective names. (The same applies to his genuine relationship with Joe.)

The film's cast is stellar, with such A-listers as Spacey, Jamie Foxx (a menacing dog of a role), Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez (as a married couple, and possibly a sharp contrast to Baby and Debora, especially when they lose their cool), Jon Bernthal (a scene-stealer), James, and a breakout star in Elgort, who allows Baby to be sympathetic, unpredictable, and universal. He may even rival Ryan Gosling's unnamed "Driver" from 2011's Drive.

Ansel Elgort
As for the story, it's deeper than you may expect (a strength), and not as silly or as fun as the film's title or trailers would suggest (both a strength and a weakness, especially for discerning viewers). Baby is involved in a life of crime, after all. His tunes may be fun and cool, but some of the things he (and audiences) spectate or partake in aren't that fun at all, whether it's occasional profanity or violence that is hysterical (crazy, not comedic) and, at times, shocking. While not on par with the violence that Logan escalated in, it still doesn't make for easy viewing at times. Hence, the film's R-rating.

We can at least give Baby credit for pushing to get out of that lifestyle and toward a more meaningful one, all the while keeping iPods and mixed tapes still in fashion. How's that for unconventional?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"IT" Is Surprisingly Effective But Still Very Frightening (and Troubling) In Its Supernatural and Human Elements

Stephen King's bestselling novel "It" was first published in 1986, and centered on a group of outcast kids in the town of Derry, Maine, who come face to face with an evil entity in the form of a clown. The book was first adapted into a classic T.V. miniseries in 1990, and starred Tim Curry as the villainous Pennywise (who became the source of a lot of kids' nightmares from then on). The new 2017 version, from director Andy Muschietti (2013's Mama) ups the fear factor to 11 and combines supernatural horror (a demonic creature terrorizing children) with human drama and trauma (children who regularly face bullying and even adult abuse).

It all begins with a stormy night in 1988 when little Georgie takes his paper boat (made by his stuttering brother Bill) out into the rain. Soon, Georgie has an encounter in a sewer with a mysterious figure, who promises him a fun adventure. But then, . . . well, you know where this is going, especially if you've read the book. (Cue horrific scene.)

Twelve-year-old Bill and his preteen friends (Richie, Eddie, Stanley, as well as new kid Ben, homeschooled Mike, and girl Beverly) learn their small town has a history of a deadly curse that comes every 27 years. "People die here," one character tells us, "six times the national average. And that's just grown ups. Kids are worse. Way worse." That curse comes in the form of the aforementioned clown, who appears to each kid as the thing they fear the most. For Bill, it's losing his little brother. For Mike, it's rotting corpses of a factory bombing he survived. For Beverly, it's possibly becoming a woman, due, in part, to an apparently, sexually-abusive father. For Richie, it's simply just . . . clowns.

Pennywise: every child's and adult's worst nightmare
Pennywise is as horrific, nightmarish, and unpredictable a villain as I've ever seen on screen, even more than Curry's iconic portrayal. I can't even look at images of actor Bill Skarsgard in his clown makeup without freaking myself out, whether he's starring at you blankly (like above, sort of) or scurrying about in a haunted house, in the sewers, or in a projector (a truly jumpy scene, see below).

There is something intriguing, though, about the difference between facing monsters in fantasy and facing monsters in real life, and overcoming all those fears as a group instead of alone. "What happens when another Georgie goes missing," Bill asks the others. Screenwriter Gary Dauberman was recently interviewed by PluggedIn's Paul Asey about using the supernatural horror genre to tackle such themes. Said Dauberman, "I think that has to do with me really being a believer that there's something that's greater than all of us, and that death is not an end. . . . So writing and researching these stories kind of reaffirms that for me in a way. Even if there's a demonic presence, I'm always going, 'If there's a demonic presence, that means that somewhere out there there's good.' And a lot of times in these movies, the good comes from within." Furthermore, the idea of not letting fear and the thought of being an outsider define you (and "starving" it in the process) is a noble theme and action in and of itself.

The Losers Club
The film (though episodic) is also a strange piece of 80s nostalgia. I did enjoy the little nods to artists like New Kids on the Block and Young MC, and even film titles like 1989's Batman on the town theater marquee. While the cast certainly is phenomenal, and there are some surprisingly poignant moments, there are several more that are problematic and very upsetting. For one thing, the town bullies, led by Henry Bowers, are just sadistic and cruel. But do we really need to hear the other kids cussing out f-bombs every so often? There's also that scene at the lake where the kids swim half-naked and even ogle Beverly. Most of (if not all of) these children clearly have terrible parents, or at least live in a town where parents and grown-ups cannot be trusted (a common theme in popular films of the 80s, from E.T. to The Goonies to Stand By Me).

And, of course, there's all those graphic and violent images that come across the screen every 5-10 minutes or so, including carved torsos, severed heads, razor-sharp teeth, blood shooting out of bathroom sinks a la Carrie or The Shining, a chaarcter who gets stabbed in the neck, another whose arm is bitten off, and a villain whose form disfigures and contorts to horrifying effect. It's a terrifying experience indeed.

"The Boss Baby" Delivers a Surprisingly Creative Spin on Family and Business, Even If It Does Go Through a Few Too Many Diapers

Imagine, or a moment, that Jack Donaghy from NBC's "30 Rock" was an infant, and he starred in his own film, a cross between Look Who's Talking and Glengarry Glen Ross without the cussing. That's the basic concept of DreamWorks Animation's comedy, The Boss Baby (based on an award-winning children's book), which stars Alec Baldwin as the voice of a suit-wearing, adult-speaking toddler.

But the film actually begins with imaginative boy Tim (voiced by Miles Bakshi, grandson of veteran animator Ralph Bakshi, and narrated as an adult by Tobey Maguire), who goes on many imaginative and creative adventures with his loving and supporting parents (Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow), from Congo exploring to deep sea diving. This visually comedic prologue is followed by a cheery and silly allude to Fred Astaire's "Cheek to Cheek," and puts a new spin on the whole "Where do babies come from" notion--a different realm than Warner Animation's Storks took as babies here are divided into either families or management (depending apparently on their ticklish habits).

And then, the Baby shows up. Obviously, chaos happens in the family and in Tim's own life. And when Tim finds out the Baby can talk (and who he is), he plots to get rid of the Baby. Pretty obvious, as we've seen this theme in several potty-humor kids films. Furthermore, it's the Baby's belief that "there's only so much love to go around," and not enough for him or Tim.

And when they're both grounded after a mishap and forced to spend three weeks together, the Baby confesses: he's been sent from his company "up above" to stop a rival puppy corporation (where Tim's parents work) from releasing a new puppy that's reportedly being made, in order to get promoted to upper management (as if up above wasn't enough). Plus, "babies aren't getting as much love as they used to," he tells us. The action and mayhem that follows gives "Rugrats" some company, and puts Baby Geniuses to shame.

Kudos to director Tom McGrath (2005's Madagascar and 2010's Megamind) who keeps the visual style and comedy coming. Separating itself from the more complex and human-like work done on previous DreamWorks films like Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon, The Boss Baby's animation recalls the style of Disney, MGM and Warner Bros from the Fourties through the Sixties, with silly character designs a la Dick & Jane, as well as big heads and small bodies. The opening credit sequence alone reminded me of 101 Dalmatians. There are also clever supporting characters, including the Boss Baby's earthbound "business partners" Stacy, a group of triplets, and big Jimbo. But it's Baldwin's voice work alone that's worth the price of admission.

What the film does suffer from, at times, is a predictable subplot involving a former baby boss who plots revenge against a rival corps, and an unnecessary dimwitted, cross-dressing "Scary Poppins" bodyguard. Personally, I would have chosen a different song for the closing credits than the Burt Bacharach cover. And some of the content is pretty deep (Tim asks at one point, "Are you the baby Jesus?"), which will easily fly over kids' heads. But even if the story is full of one too many subplots and few too many diaper/poop/butt gags (as can be expected in a PG-rated cartoon feature), its creative and fun take on family and business is well worth it.

There's a Benjamin Button-/Peter Pan-esque moment where the Boss Baby tells Tim, "I may look like a baby, but I was born all grown up." It's obvious many people, particularly preteens and adults, want respect and dignity and success. And yet, there's something poignant about the theme of never growing up, yet never having anyone to share your life with (whether children or adults) and, as a result, feeling empty without them or seeing the effect it has on both. Imagine if all the Jack Donaghy's in the world heard that.

Monday, September 11, 2017

"Dunkirk" Brilliantly Experiments With Filmmaking Techniques While Still Telling A Worthy WWII Story

In the course of his nearly-20-year career, British filmmaker Christopher Nolan has tackled psychological thrillers, comic book icons, and science-fiction. And now, like Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock before him, he tackles war and historical events. Dunkirk recreates the miraculous 1940 evacuation (known as Operation Dynamo) of nearly 400,000 British, French and Belgian soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk in the early years of World War II.

Nolan's direction puts you right there in the middle of the action and allows you to feel the suspense, the tension and, above all, the experience. Furthermore, the way Nolan structures this story for the screen is unparalleled. Juxtaposing three different perspectives--soldiers on land, civilians at sea, and pilots in the air--the results are unlike anything ever seen on the big screen, and are constantly on-edge-of-your-seat and unpredictable. Nolan even mixes a temporal strata of each of these perspectives--in other words, the time durations of each place (one week on land, one day at sea, and one hour in the air). This theme of time is even echoed in the ticking sounds found in Hans Zimmer's experimental and powerful score (with elements of Vangelis in there as well).

Many viewers have argued that the film lacks character development. While that can be debated, there are still key characters we care about, understand, and see various levels of humanity,worry, grief and tension in. Such include on-land soldiers Tommy, Gibson and Alex (newcomers Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, and singer Harry Styles); sailor Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and friend George (Barry Keoghan), and a traumatized soldier (Cillian Murphy); and spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden). Whitehead, Murphy, Rylance, and Hardy, in particular, give standout (and expressive) work.

Nolan's key mission with this film, to reiterate, was to put the audience right in the experience of the battle, and therefore in this story of survival (which one character states is sometimes enough), rescue, and of course certainly heroism. The camerawork and dialogue-limited script add to this successful masterwork of artistic achievement, while honoring the fallen and, most of all, paying tribute to the heroism of regular people willing to answer the call, and not just soldiers. Not since Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line (1998) and Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) have I seen a war film very different from its genre. This one arguably leaves them and all others behind.

Just as he did with the Dark Knight sequels and Interstellar, Nolan employs and takes IMAX cameras and 65/70mm film to a whole nother level. For one thing, the filmmakers placed some of these cameras in actual spitfire planes and behind real boats, to add a greater sense of authenticity. The latter format, meanwhile, recalls the way films used to be made and seen. Dunkirk is, in fact, the third film this decade to use the format, following Paul Thomas Anderson's period piece The Master (2012) and Quentin Tarantino's violent western The Hateful Eight (2015). I attended a 70mm screening (which I hadn't been to in about six years) and found myself surprised--and a little distracted--by the loud sound of the projector behind me. (It's amazing what six years can do.)

Nevertheless, Dunkirk ties with Wonder Woman as the year's best film, in terms of an old-fashioned and groundbreaking scope. It may, hands down, be the best moviegoing experience this year (and should be seen in IMAX). It represents the way films should be made, and the way they're meant to be seen.

Nolan stated in an interview about the battle's importance:

"This is an essential moment in the history of the Second World War. If this evacuation had not been a success, Great Britain would have been obliged to capitulate. And the whole world would have been lost, or would have known a different fate: the Germans would undoubtedly have conquered Europe, the U.S. would not have returned to war. It is a true point of rupture in war and in history of the world. A decisive moment. And the success of the evacuation allowed Churchill to impose the idea of a moral victory, which allowed him to galvanize his troops like civilians and to impose a spirit of resistance while the logic of this sequence should have been that of surrender. Militarily, it is a defeat; on the human plane, it is a colossal victory" (IMDb).

Monday, August 28, 2017

"A Ghost Story," Pretentious On the Surface, Proves Emotional in Mesmerizing Meditation on Grief, Time and Memory

One of this year's most striking and incredibly-effecting on-screen images (and its most simple yet distinct) is the sight of recent Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck wearing a ghost sheet. But what could've easily been used as a cheap and silly gimmick--director David Lowery has confessed that it is a goofy image--instead becomes (and encompasses) a poetic meditation of loss, love and memory. In fact, Lowery makes the most of A Ghost Story's low-budget filmmaking capabilities (reportedly used off the funds from his live-action version of Pete's Dragon last year) that it's hard not to be mesmerized by the final product.

For one thing, the 4:3 aspect ratio (the image below) is used as if we're watching home movies of forgotten times. The translucent light effects on walls in certain scenes illustrate apparitions. The same goes for flickering lights in certain eerie moments. Quick cuts suggest the passage of time (a Terrence Malick influence, perhaps), including smoke and fog effects suggesting a change of seasons, lighting, and settings. If you pay attention to the credits, they state that Weta Digital was involved with the visual effects of this otherwise low-budget film. More specifically, several shots are very long, intimate and emotion-driven, including a now-arguably-famous scene of Mara scarfing down a pie, tears running down the end of her nose. Overall, this is simple, experimental, and great filmmaking.

Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck
Affleck and Mara (who both starred in Lowery's 2013 debut feature Ain't Them Bodies Saints) are riveting from frame one. They play a couple living in a small home in Texas. Affleck's musician C dies unexpectedly in a car crash one morning, leaving Mara's book-reading M devastated, but returns in the form of a physical ghost (a traditional sheet used like a costume with black eye holes a la "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"). M eventually does leave the house (with memorial notes left in the walls), while C's "ghost" stays, along with a piano and a neighbor "ghost," until other residents come in (a Spanish family, a philosopher, construction workers and corporate workers).

There is a sense of eeriness at times, in Daniel Hart's haunting score and in the direction of C's "ghost". The way he stares does trigger a certain spookiness a la Michael Myers or any famous horror movie character. But this film is not a horror. It's a drama. And a human one, at that. Many viewers will likely see this as a secular view of the afterlife, on the other hand. But it's more akin to The Tree of Life than, say, Beetlejuice, what with the aforementioned Malick influences of the passage of time, and images of the cosmos and stars. And Affleck (along with Tom Hardy's performance in Dunkirk) has the most challenging and effecting body-language of any film role this year, from the different postures he makes, along with the movements of his arms and hands.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara
There's not a lot of spiritual discussion here, save for one scene where an apparently pessimistic man theorizes and argues logic and science over God and believes everything will be lost and forgotten one. (C apparently reacts against this, what with the flashing lights and the implied rubbled aftermath that results.) In an early scene, C has the option of heading through a door light in the hospital, but chooses to miss it (it closes momentarily) and goes to a different "exit"--his old home.

The way the film plays with time and how it does so is very unexpected and thought-provoking. What is this character doing in this time? Does there seem to be a quick passage of time apart from reality? A quick transition to a 19th-Century pilgrim family building a home finds a little girl writing a note and leaving it under a rock (like M). And a flashback suggests that C didn't want to move, apparently attached to the house's history. Perhaps he was already a ghost before he physically became one? The ghost (no matter how absurd it looks) can poetically represent the memory of a loved one who has passed, and his/her presence in that place they left their legacy at. And if you stay through the credits, you'll hear quiet and misty effects such as winds and fields, suggesting a form of meditation and memory. I haven't seen film credits like this since, perhaps, the 1990 re-release of Fantasia, as well as Cast Away (2000) and No Country For Old Men (2007).

Perhaps no film this year has challenged or provoked me more than A Ghost Story. At its heart, it's a story about moving on. Not just from homes, but also from heartache and from tragedy.