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A Ghost Story

Ever since Sundance earlier this year, the song I Get Overwhelmed by Dark Rooms has been on high rotation on my list of favourite songs. In the film, Casey Affleck plays a music producer who makes this track and then plays it for his wife, Rooney Mara. The images of him giving her his headphones to let her in on his creation is one of the intimate moments they share during the film – before he dies in a car accident. The film only plays snippets of it, but they were enough to burrow into my mind and come along with me when I left the cinema, and Utah itself. For me, the song was one tangible thing to hold onto after seeing the film, which is about all things intangible.

 

At its basic premise, after he dies, Affleck’s character becomes a ghost, who haunts the house he and his wife lived in. It’s such a simple premise that the ghost even looks like one a little kid would dress up as. A big, thick sheet, with two eyes cut out – no fancy film tricks at play. And yet the sheet acts as a blank canvass for director David Lowery’s meditation on life – on love and time and memories and hardships and joy.
I struggled to describe this film then, and I still struggle somewhat now. I remember walking out the cinema and bumping into a friend who didn’t like it, and I physically had to turn away from her because I couldn’t bear to hear that she didn’t get it. I had such a visceral response to this film – in as much as it is an ephemeral film. It’s the kind that needs to be experienced to be appreciated – in a way, to let the spirit of it take hold of you. Its final moment quite literally took my breathe away.
But it remains a film made up of things hard to describe, hard to grab a hold of. That the film’s distributor A24 has created A Ghost Store, in a small building on NYC’s Lower East Side, feels like a way to make the intangible a little less so. I do feel the mini-ad for the store does somewhat give away a little of the film’s magic, but it’s nonetheless a memorable experience to take part in – and, just like experiencing the film, very personal. You go in and literally “get fitted” for a sheet of your own, by answering questions. It’s a clever way for the film to team up with a brand, yes, but it’s also a great way to build up anticipation ahead of the film’s release, when it comes to life on big screens across cinemas.

Me, “checking out” the store.

A Ghost Store is currently open in NYC and you can find out more about visiting it here. In the meantime, the film comes out July 7th. 

During my 6 days at Sundance, I saw 20 films, so my Top 6:
6️. Trophy: a doc that uses incredible cinematography to flesh out issues around how to look after the animals of our world. Urgent, compelling & fascinating.
5️. Patti Cake$: a feel-good film with a breakout star. Get ready to know the name Danielle Macdonald – and also to have the catchy PBNJ song stuck in your head for days after seeing the film about a Jersey girl who spits rhymes & owns her sass through tough times.
4️. Wind River: from the man who wrote the Sicario & Hell or High Water scripts comes his directorial debut. Jeremy Renner, in his best role to date, at least IMHO, plays a hunter who is roped in to help solve a murder crime on a Native American reservation.
3️. Mudbound: Dee Rees’ follow-up to Pariah, in which she gives us Garrett Hedlund & Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton‘s Eazy E) as 2 men who served in WW2 returning to racist Mississippi in a brutal film, but a necessary testimony to times gone by. Also starring the fantastic Mary J Blige.
2️. A Ghost Story: the premise is simple – a man dies and becomes a ghost that haunts the house where he & his wife lived. He even looks like the simple ghost a child would dress up as – a sheet with 2 eyes cut out. But the depth of emotion I felt watching this film belies all of that. It’s a beautiful meditation on time, love and life, and the last scene will absolutely take your breathe away – if you fall into this film and let it.
1️. Call Me By Your Name: yes, this is a queer story but love is love is love is love is love, and so it’ll move you no matter your sexual orientation. It’s a wonderful, sensual, engaging film that I wanted to wrap myself up in for longer than its running time. Armie Hammer & Timothee Chalamet star in Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s masterpiece. The music, the cinematography, the dialogue make it the best kind of film experience – where you walk out the cinema and feel like something inside you has shifted and you’ll never be the same again.
*Special mention: John Trengove’s brave film about masculinity & male initiation, The Wound, and Jordan Peele’s clever & funny-til-it-turns-scary horror, Get Out.
Pic: Bennett Slater’s 33 Years of Sundance from the Morgan Spurlock-curated exhibition.