Directors: David Lowery
Writers: David Lowery
Cinematographer: Andrew Droz Palermo
Producer: Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, and Adam Donaghey
by Jon Cvack
I checked out David Lowery’s short film “Pioneer” before watching this film, where after making a micro budget feature, Lowery made the short, becoming an Official Selection in Sundance and winning the Grand Jury prize at SXSW. Like any great short, what’s most impressive is how simple of an idea it is, requiring only two characters - an older white man who’s putting a younger black child to sleep. It’s an eerie and beautiful film, as the old man tells a strange and fantastical story about how he met the child’s mom, going so far back as the American Civil War. The film would allow Lowery to go on to make his second feature Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013).
After spending two years on the Pete’s Dragon remake (2016), his wife and him got into an argument about moving back to Texas, which combined with an article he read about a catastrophic earthquake and a desire for a more intimate story, eventually led him to imagine a film taking place in a single house, where after a husband dies in an accident, his ghost is forced to remain in the house for all eternity, initially watching his wife until she then moves away and another family comes in; later with the house being destroyed as the big city expands. Allegedly the film cost $100,000.
For anyone that’s been in a relationship for awhile, this film hits hard; with Lowery capturing all of the tiny bits and quarks that comprise any couple who’re deeply in love. We see the cuddles and inside jokes, the disagreements and the passions, though mostly the simple satisfaction of living with someone you love, in which their company alone is enough to keep you content. I found myself considering the details of my own life and my fiancé, putting myself in the man’s position, being forced to watch as the person you love suffers, all while knowing that soon the suffering will ease and she might explore new partners, either intimately or lustfully, all while trying to move on, knowing that - as with anything - only time is what will heal; all while accepting that time is all the ghost has.
Unfortunately, this first half was so strong - pulling harder at my heart stringers than anything I’ve seen in awhile - that when the woman finally moves out and a new family moves in, the emotions I had for the while following initial couple never returned. Will Oldham from the short film “Pioneer” makes a return, going on a drunken rant that most of us have had on our college days in which, due to the grand design of the universe, you eventually realize that one day, millions of years from now, the Earth will end and all of anything humans have ever created won’t matter. It’s a fun monologue, though I was still left wanting to see what happened to the girl.
The world continues to move on, with the house getting knocked down and a skyscraper taking its place before the sun finally explodes and everything dies and the ghost is forced to go back in time to a moment before humans, still occupying the same plot of land, seeing a band of old western travelers slaughtered by Natives, until he returns to when him and the girl live in the house, watching their relationship's rise and fall yet again and its devastating conclusion, soon bringing back another ghost.
Earlier in the film, the woman inserts a note into a crack in the door frame. The ghost is unable to grab it being invisible and all. The woman places it in again in the second universe and finally he gets to see it, then disappearing and headed to heaven, or so I assume. Nietzsche talks about the eternal state of recurrence, in which if the universe is infinite in age, then all possibilities stand to happen again.
I’m not sure how long it’d take for our Sun and galaxy to get redesigned, and while I don’t think getting into a psychedelic montage would help much, it does leave you wondering. I went into my gal’s room after this was done and gave her an extra kiss, hug, and love you. None of us know when we’re going to go; a probability that becomes an increasingly likely chance as we age. It leaves you wondering what’s most important. I’d agree with Lowery - at the end of the day, it’s about occupying your time with things and people you love. Just wish he focused more on that than post-philosophy 101 late night weed talk.
BELOW: Every humanity's major will meet someone like this in college
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