I think this one is "R" for "aRtsy". There's not much that really makes this movie "R". There's almost no dialogue in the movie and one of those words is the f-bomb. But for the most part, there's nothing in here that would make it R. A married couple sleeps together, but no nudity is shown. This is another "R" because PG-13 movies have no credibility.
DIRECTOR: David Lowery
I don't get all of it, and that's okay. It took me a while to come to this realization. Many movies I don't get I pretend to love. I tell my students that I wear glasses to make me look smart. I think that attitude stems out of that. On the other hand, I often hate movies because I don't get them at all. (Sorry, Last Year at Marienbad.) This is a movie that I kind of get, but also have huge questions about. I even decided to watch special features in hope that I would gain insight. Then my kids started screaming that they wanted dinner or something made up like that and I stopped watching special features. I'm what they call "a good dad." But I'm very okay now with not understanding every element of this movie. That might be maturity or the fact that the movie hit the right emotional resonance without having to be completely forthright.
I'd also like to say that I have now seen Rooney Mara eat the majority of a pie in real time. You probably can't say that unless you are married to Rooney Mara or are Rooney Mara's private baker. That's a thing. That ties into what might be my most questionable criticism of the movie. The movie loves the long take, regardless of what the subject matter is. This is extremely artsy. There were moments where I just stepped out of myself as an audience member and just focused on the filmmaking process. It was super Brechtian is what I'm saying. (The glasses might actually make me smarter. Who knows?) The composition of these shots, for the most part, are extremely beautiful. But the long takes are also extremely telling of the film's fundamental flaw. The movie is only an hour-and-a-half. Regularly doing long takes on the mundane might be a band-aid for the fact that this was meant to be a short film. There isn't too much content in this movie to even justify a summary. But now I'm going to argue with myself and say that the narrative might not be the center. Rather, a stress on the passage of time might be the greater purpose. These long cuts allow me, the viewer, to empathize with the ghost. The audience is subject to the shyuzet when the ghost is experiencing the fabula. (THESE GLASSES ARE MAGIC GLASSES!) Lowery's goal is for the viewer to understand that time is passing for the ghost. That's where the movie gets a little clunky. There were times where I was unaware if the ghost was experiencing accelerated time or whether he was being driven mad by the mundane existence he was experiencing. I think the movie wants us to believe that he experiences every moment and has very little control over these moments. That's actually the only way that the story works for me. The long cuts are boring, but they are pretty to look at is what I'm saying.
I really like the commentary on death that the movie provides. The movie is more about experiencing mortality (and, by contrast, immortality). It is interesting seeing it from the other side. Rooney Mara's character has very natural reactions to death, but it is also about moving on. I NEED TO GET SPOILERY BECAUSE THIS IS MORE OF AN ANALYTICAL ESSAY ANYWAY. The paper in the wall is interesting. This story, for everyone I suppose, is about moving on. Most stories about death and mortality involve the bereaved and the moving on process is slow. There is a happy ending or at least the implication of happiness. A character may meet someone new and criticize his or her feelings for this new person. That ends with a degree of acceptance. The note in the wall is such a moment of torture for Casey Affleck, the ghost. (Let's talk about that later.) There is this "a ha!" moment where Lowery reveals what it takes to proceed to the afterlife and it is about acceptance that someone is gone. But that paper is just so troubling. There is an odd implication about abandoning hope or forgetting the person. The ghost next door doesn't even remember who it is waiting for. But that is still not enough. The ghost needs to let go of hope and I'm not sure if I can get behind that. It just seems so cynical and dark. What is the point of that message? I get the moving on aspect. That I can get behind. But the ghosts have to completely abandon hope? Like I said, I don't get every element of the movie. Also, the message in the wall is left a mystery. For all I know, the movie is more about closure than it is about hope. But watching the ghost scratch at the wall depressed the living daylights out of me. It's so sad, guys. Like, so sad.
But the thing that most confused me was the time travel bit. For a while, I thought the time travel bit wasn't actually time travel backwards, but time travel forwards. That really messes with the way the movie is watched. I think this is all on me because I just might be too sci-fi-y and dumb to watch a movie that might be obvious. It is one of those "go with the flow" moments where I was just supposed to accept what I was watching and not overthink it. Big surprise, guys. I overthought it. Here's the way I viewed the movie. Casey Affleck jumps off a building. He wakes up and hundreds of years have passed. Again, this was when I thought that the ghost wasn't experiencing reality in real time. I just heard this big speech (again, the only real talking in the movie) about the death of the universe and I thought that the ghost had witnessed the end of civilization. The building, in my head, had collapsed, as had the city. People were returning to a simpler time. The ghost was going to experience all of recorded and non-recorded history. That was so cool to me. Then Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara showed up in their new-old house and I realized that he went back in time. That's very puzzling, thinking you are watching one movie and then you are watching an all new movie. My brain tried explaining it. Maybe the movie was trying to say that history is cyclical and that, eventually, a perfect double of you will fulfill the role you had in society. But then I realized that my brain was creating fan theories and that was dumb. But the time travel bit still confuses me. (I told you, I overthink things.) Why did he go back in time? I am not supposed to be asking this question, but I think it might be vital to the whole cinematic experience. I emotionally connected to a story that really wasn't there because my brain was stuck with the wrong narrative. Once my schemata were changed, I realized I was watching the movie wrong for a large portion of the film. SHOULD I EVEN BE REVIEWING THIS WITH THIS KNOWLEDGE? Anyway, I'd just like to point out that I'm an idiot who uses big words and wears glasses.
I can't believe that it was Casey Affleck under the sheet the entire time. Rooney Mara has the bigger acting job, despite the fact that Casey Affleck is on screen for the majority of the movie. One of the elements that drives the viewer out of the movie, like I mentioned, is the need to know how the movie was filmed. By putting Casey Affleck front and center, as a fairly recognizable celebrity, the question of "who is under the sheet" is wildly distracting. According to the special features, it was him. So David Lowery (who I understand is friends with Casey Affleck) had to pay Affleck to be in a movie to just stand there and walk slowly in and out of rooms. I know that Affleck is kind of artsy fartsy himself and loves subversive film. I know that this is up his alley, so he may have only taken a modest paycheck. But that Brechtian thing is showing up. There are times in the movie where I cannot engage completely because of the makeup of the film. Wondering if Casey Affleck was behind the sheet the entire time is distracting as all get out. I get why it was done. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara give the film emotional gravitas and a sense of validity to what could be, and I don't mean to be diminutive, a student film. It actually is kind of impressive to think that Affleck is standing under a sheet. I guess that means that he believes in the concept. Because the concept itself is weird. There's a fine line between the costume being silly and the costume being effective. I think the movie and the costume really work, for the most part. There were a couple moments when the costume can be seen as silly, but it didn't evoke that emotion for most of the movie. The movie in no way is a horror movie, but there were times that the sheet gave me the creeps. I'm talking about the scene when he first gets up from the hospital table. I had emotional response and I'm cool with that. It wasn't terrifying, by any means. But it was effective. The costume works for the aesthetics and that's what I care about. Also, apparently there was a helmet under there. First Spider-Man's mask and then this? What can I believe anymore.
It's super slow and I can't argue that it isn't boring. But I really liked it. I might even watch it again I liked it so much. It is just the feeling of an emotion in an hour and a half. It is profound, but it is not the most profound. And again, be cool with not necessarily getting all of it. I'm confident enough to say that I don't get all of it and am writing about the movie with a degree of confidence that no individual should have. Again, this may all be more telling about me than anything else.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.