Starring: Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.
Directed By: David Lowery
Plot: There is none. For the uninformed, this is the “Casey Affleck wearing a white bedsheet as a ghost” film you might have seen the trailer for.
What Works: So, if you go into this film expecting a traditional narrative, I believe you’ll be disappointed. That’s why I’m not even going to pretend there’s a cohesive plot to this film. There are fortune cookie plots like “one man’s journey” or “life and death”, but not a truly cohesive overarching plot. In many ways, this is an experimental film, one that plays with a lot of ideas, and looks at film as a true art form, not just to tell stories, but to share ideas and concepts, and as a visual medium. Film can transport you to other worlds, sure, but it can also make you question life itself, and what happens when we die. That’s what David Lowery tries to do here, and I totally respect his vision. I think there’s some beautiful camera work here, and he manages to get some really great moments. However…
What Doesn’t Work: This film is not for everyone. It bored me for quite a while. Lowery loves to just hold on a moment for an uncomfortable period of time. The biggest example I can think of is the scene where Mara has to prepare her lunch, then she starts eating it, and the scene just goes on forever. I honestly think it’s a 7 or 8 minute scene, one take, of Mara doing this very boring task, and we’re watching the whole thing. Also, for a film that almost entirely lacks dialogue, I found it incredibly pretentious when the guy starts talking about how nothing means anything because the sun will destroy the earth in a billion years. Another scene that went on too long, and honestly is about 90% of the films entire dialogue. No shit, I think that guy had more dialogue than Mara and Affleck combined, and possibly more facial screentime than Affleck. I kinda felt the same way about Melancholia, only I think this is a better film. It has a bit more to say, it just isn’t really sure about what the best way is to say it.
Final Word: Lots of interesting ideas and concepts. Truly. A brave directorial effort, but not a really entertaining film. It’s relatively short though, and would probably be much shorter if there was traditional editing and not uncomfortably long shots. I could drop this down to 1:15 easy, and I think the impact would be pretty much the same. I feel bad scoring this film low, because I respect it more than I enjoy it. I wouldn’t recommend this film to an average moviegoer. I’d say if you enjoyed Tree Of Life, which is still a more accessible film than this, you might enjoy this.
FINAL GRADE: B-