19 January 2018



If you've ever had the burning desire to watch a bereaved woman sit on a floor and eat a whole pie before running to the toilet vomiting and crying, then boy!, do I have a movie for you, lol. I'm trivialising the film there for a laugh but it's actually one of the most beautiful and thoughtful films I've seen in a long time, and almost unbearably sad in places.

It's the story of a young couple named, rather pretentiously, C (the guy) and M (the girl), but in my own mind I immediately classified them as James and Ella before I knew about their being-known-just-by-initials jazz, so James and Ella they shall remain for the duration of the review. Can you guess which one is which, lol...?

James and Ella are living in this absolutely gorgeous bungalow in a quiet rural area. In 'Murica, of course. The house came with a piano, which is handy as James is a talented musician. It's hard to get a sense of what Ella is, beyond James's girlfriend and the owner of a face made for moping. No offence meant there, by the way. She only smiles once in the film and it looks so alien to her that I spat out my tea in fright when I saw it, and I'm not kidding.

They have this lovely house filled with books and music and some lovely greenery to look out the window at if they feel so inclined. They prefer to spend their time together the way most other couples do, however, sighing and getting frustrated with each other and leaving important things left unsaid while filling the air around them with a whole dictionary full of unnecessary words.

James finds communication within the relationship as difficult as most men do, and Ella just can't help spending hours and hours trying to show him the error of his ways, like every wronged female ever. The result is that the two of them end up banging their heads off metaphorical walls and getting precisely nowhere.

Again, this is nothing new in the world of relationships. In fact, if it doesn't describe nine out of ten relationships ever, then I'll eat my hat, a special edible hat made out of liquorice that I purchased for occasions like this and that won't cause me any hardship whatsoever to ingest, haha. See the way I'm always ten steps ahead of the posse, d'you see that...?

Then something dramatic and unexpected happens to prevent James and Ella from living out their days together passive-aggressively taking out the bins in a pained, pointed silence because it's really the other person's turn to do it but when was the last time they were arsed...? James dies suddenly and becomes a g-g-g-g-ghost...! Run, Scoob, old pal, run...!

Well, there's no need to run because James is quite harmless. Dressed in the traditional ghostly garb of bedroom sheet with two eye-holes (like Michael Myers in that funny but deadly bedroom scene in John Carpenter's magnificent HALLOWEEN), he can observe everything that goes on in his old home without being seen. Ella has no clue that he's there, but he's there all right, and it's almost too, too sad to witness.

Imagine how sad it would be to be a ghost who was able to come back and look around his or her old home. I'd look through my books and CDs and miss them. I'd miss my couch, my kettle, my kitchen, my old bedroom. I'd check the wine-and-chocolate levels in my old fridge. It would be almost unbearably poignant and nostalgic, and that's only the stuff. That's before you even mention the people and animals you'd left behind.

James has to endure the sadness and loneliness of being a ghost who can see his former love quite plainly but can't lift a finger to console her. He can communicate with another sad and lonely lady ghost who lives nearby and is waiting for someone but they've forgotten who it is (it's too sad!) but that's about it. Beyond a few poltergeisty outbreaks, James is gone from Ella's life forever. Or is he...? True love can transcend most barriers, but can it transcend death...?

There's a fantastically impressive music score that makes the film even sadder, deeper and poignant than it already is. I was even more impressed with the subtitles. They informed me when the music was chilling, ominous, sentimental, nerve-wracking, electronic, forlorn, intense, serene, dissonant and eerie. That's some range of descriptiveness there...!

I was also similarly informed when grass was rustling, thunder was rumbling or muffled, crows were cawing, wind was howling or there was birdsong or indistinct chatter. I also learned that the impressively-named glissando is a big discordant jangle of piano keys, as if you'd suddenly plonked your bowling ball down on top of them. I learned a lot from these highly educational subtitles, lol. Kudos to whoever put them together.

I also learned (by using my eyes) that Casey Affleck has an incredibly fit chest/body. A shot of his uncovered butt, perhaps while casually showering or getting undressed, would have been hugely appreciated. I'm hopeful that the film-makers will bear this in mind for next time...

The film is just so sweet and sad and beautiful and it raises so many questions. Like, where do we go when we die? Do we get to come back and watch over the loved ones who mourn us? Can we poke them with mucky sticks if they're not mourning us enough? That'd really piss me off, if I thought that the devastating loss of my good self wasn't utterly destroying everyone I'd left behind.

Can we choose where we get to spend eternity? Are ghosts only ghosts by accident, as some horror films maintain and, if so, do they need a bit of help to move on into the afterlife, help from a busybody medium, perhaps?

Do ghosts enjoy their work, or as they as bored and out of place as a vicar at a hen night? When we die, are we reunited with our loved ones? Who washes all those grubby ghost-sheets? There'd better not be any laundry to do in the afterlife. There are a million questions you could ask and unfortunately not get any answers to.

I could watch this film a good many times and not get bored of it, but not six times, as Professor Frink from THE SIMPSONS might utter in his distinctive voice. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's given me loads of food for thought, although actual food is even nicer, especially a nice choccy biscuit to go with my tea.

I'm off now to make more tea and think a little bit more about life-after-death. What if I wanted to haunt a specific place but there was a waiting-list? Do I have to wear the bed-sheet or could I go with something a little more, shall we say, form-fitting? Is there any way to, like, pre-book all this stuff before you die? Maybe I'll just go online and check...

A GHOST STORY is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD courtesy of LIONSGATE.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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