Writer-director David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a contemplative tone poem on the vast expanses of time, captured in a single relationship between two people. As the two main characters reach a turning point about where they are going to live, a car accident removes one of them from the equation – except that it doesn’t. After the body is identified and the sheet pulled back, the body erects itself, walks out of the morgue, and starts observing.
“But there are dreams that cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather”
— Fantine, Les Miserables
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea is a gut-punch of a film dressed up in the doldrums of everyday life. On the surface, the plot is universal and relatable: a man returns back to his hometown on account of the sudden death of his older brother, and must make the arrangements and look after his nephew in the aftermath. There is surprising wit and humor in the story, heavily sarcastic and ball-busting, and it helps to offset at least some of the sadness. Because a darker and sadder mystery bubbles up through off-hand comments, whispers, and flashbacks. This non-linear storytelling method is used intelligently and sparingly, and suffices to wrench maximal emotional devastation from the audience. The result is a wonderful but sad film that can count itself as one of the best of the year.