A Ghost Story (2017)


Directed by: David Lowery
Country: USA

Writer-helmer-editor David Lowery (“Ain't Them Bodies Saints”) delivers one of the most rewarding movies of the year, a psychedelic, indie-style ghost drama that is beautiful and haunting in equal proportions.

Resorting to long shots, which stimulate even more our curiosity, and perfectly composed settings, the director opts for a dead-cold stillness that characterizes an intelligent, layered tale related with a profound sense of loss, despair, and eternity.
By the time we are introduced to C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara), a young married couple who just moved into a suburban house in Dallas, we are also presented with a sentence by the acclaimed English writer Virginia Woolf that says: “whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting”.

Actually, after dying unexpectedly in a car accident, a door of light is literally shut for C, who, by choosing to return home, remains confined there for many, many years.

Noises and silences are masterfully conjugated to create tension, while the impactful score by Daniel Hart plays a fundamental role in the discomfort of whether eerie, whether dramatic situations. Moreover, the balance between light and darkness is achieved with artistry and enhances the beautiful cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo (“You’re Next”).

One of the aspects I liked the most was the basic way the ghost was depicted. And let me tell you that, in the present case, the typical long white sheet with two holes in the head felt creepier than childish. This rambling hollow figure patiently observes M’s grieving process until she abandons the house for good. Before leaving, she places a little piece of paper with something written inside a crack on the wall. The frustrated spirit of C attempts to reach this ‘secret’, even many years later, when several other people went to live in the property. 


On two occasions, the spirit attests all his dissatisfaction and boredom by employing violent manifestations. Firstly, when M brings home a new male friend, and secondly, when a Spanish-speaking family moves into the house.

An unthinkable surprise, perhaps slightly strained, turns up when C communicates with another ghost who keeps waiting in the house next door for someone he doesn’t remember.

A Ghost Story” tests the limits of our intellect and senses, giving us much more to chew on than most of the typical films within the genre. This film looks like something Wim Wenders would do if he had dedicated himself to the infinite solitude of a ghost instead of a fallen angel.

Lowery’s risk-taking effort could easily fall in the ridicule. However, the auteur shaped it brilliantly and the film truly impressed me by entangling, astonishing, and disorienting with its hazy, uncanny, spiritual viewpoint.


Manchester By The Sea (2016)


Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Country: USA

Kenneth Lonergan, 54, is a NY writer-director of exceptional class. Having directed only three movies during his career, Lonergan, a graduate of NYU’s Playwriting Program, has gained wide reputation through distinguishable dramas: “You Can Count on Me” (already a classic), “Margaret”, and now his latest “Manchester by the Sea”.

This story centers in Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), an emotionally devastated man who struggles with guilt, after the death of his three children in a home fire. Lee used to hang out with friends until late night, consuming alcohol and drugs, visibly lacking responsibility regarding the household. 
His wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), disapproving of his conduct, left him without hesitation after the incident.
We find Lee currently living semi-isolated in Boston, where he works as a building superintendent and occasionally picks fights when drinking at pubs.

After receiving a phone call informing that his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), had a heart attack, Lee is forced to return to his little hometown of Manchester-by-the-sea. 
He’ll have the chance to better know his 16-year-old nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), a smart and sensitive kid who attempts to reconnect with his long-gone former-alcoholic mother (Gretchen Mol), after his father’s death.
Lee is surprised as he learns that Joe pointed him as Patrick’s guardian in his will. 
For him, this is a major decision and obstacle since he doesn’t want to return to a place that brings awful memories. Everything gets more complicated when Randi, now re-married, asks to attend Joe’s funeral.

Cleverly conceived and incredibly acted, "Manchester by the Sea" is a compelling examination of painful lives portrayed with a striking sense of truthfulness.
I experienced sympathy, hope, agitation, and then frustration. 
A few humorous moments are brought by Patrick and his girlfriends, contrasting with the grievous state of his uncle and the messy life he seems unable to escape.
The overmuch melodramatic music by Lesley Barber is a minor quibble that doesn’t remove a hair of competence from a heartbreaking tale that's also one of the most inspired dramas of 2016.