‘A Ghost Story’

a-ghost-storyA potentially pretentious existential narrative somehow works, in spite of its repetition and slow scene building. The result is a mesmerising exploration of life, love and loss that is lyrical, poetic and hypnotic.

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) is killed in a car accident, leaving Rooney Mara (Carol, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) to grieve for her loss. Affleck returns as a sheet-shrouded ghost.

Haunting rather than scary, writer/director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) plays with the stereotypical haunted house story, producing an accessible, graceful film that, in 92 minutes, never outstays its welcome.

 Rating: 71%

‘Manchester by the Sea’

ff75b81baaf98d36793dd79b5ecc98d9c3965def4b9e26bc0acaea6caa233f6d-1Grief and pain are persistent throughout this powerfully tender family drama, small in setting, broad in scope.

Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James, Interstellar) returns to Manchester, Massachussets on the death of his brother to a 16 year old nephew left alone and demons from the past. It’s an emotional powerhouse of a film (throw in an operatic soundtrack that adds rather than manipulates) as Affleck looks for some kind of redemption via emotional recovery.

An ensemble piece, Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine) are superb supports but a haunting Casey Affleck is truly authentic in this nuanced, understated performance.

Quietly devastating.

Rating: 88%

‘Triple 9’

triple9Starting with a violent bank job and police chase, Triple 9 is hardly original (and in its early stages, somewhat confusing). But what unfolds is a gritty and atmospheric storyline of corruption, bent cops and the Russian mafia.

Director John Hillcoat (Lawless, The Proposition) continues to explore the male world of loyalties and sudden violence, with an impressive cast queueing to play against type – Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Secret in their Eyes), Anthony Mackie (The Avengers, The Adjustment Bureau) and a wonderfully blousy Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic) as a Russian mob leader.

But it’s the quiet dignity of Casey Affleck that provides the focus to a film that is considerably better than its story. Hillcoat just needs the right material to become huge.

Rating: 60%

‘The Finest Hours’

TheFinestHoursTheatricalPosterEngaging and at times compelling, The Finest Hours is an old-fashioned tale of heroism on the high seas whilst family, friends and love interest await anxiously on land.

In spite of its subject, helmed by Chris Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Fright Night), The Finest Hours is a surprisingly quiet, character-driven drama. The reluctant heroes – a quiet, against character Chris Pine (Star Trek, Unstoppable) and the ridiculously underrated Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James, Interstellar) – are stoic in their actions to save lives.

Shamelessly manipulative it may be, but The Finest Hours is based on a true 1952 event  – and its sentimentality and old-fashionedness works perfectly in its telling.

Rating: 62%