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Laramie Movie Scope: A Ghost Story

A tale of love, loss and a long, long time

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 19, 2017 – I had not heard of this film until it not only was released on video, but made it to the list of nominees for the best film of the year for my critics group. Fortunately, I was able to rent it last night at a local Red Box, and it really is worth watching.

It was not the sort of ghost story I was expecting. This is a low-budget independent film that is more along the lines of an art film than a horror film. There is nothing really scary about it, but it is very thought-provoking, with big ideas about the nature of existence, death and time. It is wistful, imaginative, and unexpectedly emotional in its depiction of the transience of life.

One of the striking things about this film is it's aspect ratio, the old “TV screen ratio” of 1:33:1 or 4:3 instead of wide screen. In the extras on the rental disk, the director, David Lowery (“Pete's Dragon”) says he picked this format to emphasize that the ghost in this story is trapped. The other striking thing about this movie is how much of it is told visually. There is very little dialog, except for a substantial monologue, which is both essential and fascinating, by the way, delivered by actor Will Oldham as “The Prognosticator.”

The Ghost, played by Casey Affleck, in his living phase, at least, dies early in the film, and spends the rest of it walking around covered in a bed sheet with two holes cut for the eyes. I know, this sounds ridiculous, but it works, thanks to some clever costume tricks, also revealed in the extras. Rooney Mara plays his wife in the film, though she is absent for long stretches of it.

The film asks the question, how temporary are we? In this movie, it is a bit similar to the idea of the post-death “land of the remembered” and the “land of the forgotten.” The Prognosticator makes the argument that nothing is permanent. All of us, the earth, the Solar System, the planets, the entire universe will eventually pass away. The Ghost sees and hears the Prognosticator and considers the idea.

In a way, this film is a bit like an exercise in existential ennui, but it also has some drama, and even a bit of humor. The Ghost gets mad and drives a family out of his house that he's been haunting. He also has some conversations, of a sort, with another ghost in his neighborhood. As time passes, the enormity of change becomes oppressive, then, unexpectedly, the Ghost comes full circle. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2017 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]