For Reel

A Ghost Story (2017)
August 17, 2017, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David Lowery
4.5 Stars
A Ghost Story.jpgFor a film about the fragility and swiftness of existence, A Ghost Story often moves with a self-conscious malaise—it is a story of stillness and watching, and in the case of the ghost of a musician (Casey Affleck), this practice is seemingly played out over doomed centuries. The pacing nicely contrasts the fact that people often speak of the rapidity of life, and yet even a minor bout of depression feels absolutely endless. Director David Lowery’s long takes are the film’s biggest point of controversy—Rooney Mara grief-eating of a pie plays as more of a stunt than convincing character building—and yet the audience’s uneasy awareness of the film’s temporal qualities are key to establishing the film’s pulse. Similarly, if Will Oldham’s monologue regarding the futility of maintaining a legacy feels a little on-the-nose, it is not so much what he is saying that is the point, but the fact that he is saying it in the first place. The human awareness of time and its inevitable stopping are the chief concerns of the filmmakers, and Affleck’s ghost spends his time in the film not only reckoning with that fact, but watching others deal with it in the wake of his passing. Lowery’s aestheticism sometimes feels too rigorously objective to satisfy his sentimental tendencies, but nonetheless the final twenty minutes of the film are its most touching and quietly beautiful.


Pete’s Dragon (2016)
October 2, 2016, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David Lowery
3.5 Stars
petes-dragonWithin the first five minutes of Pete’s Dragon, the six-year-old Pete (Levi Alexander) survives a car crash, a near-attack by hungry wolves, and a confrontation with an enormous fire-breathing creature of  ancient legend. That the film treats these moments with a sense of detached wonder—the car crash is seen as strangely beautiful—shows a perplexing innocence in the way that children cope with the unknown. Elliot, the dragon, is only seen as horrifying by the adults who tell stories about it—to Pete (the older version played by Oakes Fegley), it’s an overgrown puppy. As showy as the film’s special effects are, this underlying innocence harmonizes with a surprising avoidance of sensationalist indulgences. The real moments of awe involve the one-sided conversations between Pete and Elliot, often sandwiched between lovely montages set to folk music. If the film betrays this sensibility at all, it happens with the appearance of Karl Urban’s hunter—a routine villain who only distracts and diminishes the inevitable drama of Pete and Elliot realizing that they both need to let go. But the film is largely about nostalgia and wonder, with the endless scenes of frolicking in the woods detailing just what it feels like to imagine and, more immediately, to attempt to make sense out of the world.