The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Every year, there’s always one film that’s not on my radar that totally blows me away. I know we’re only six months in this wretched year, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Ghost is that film for me this year. Contrary to the title, it’s not a horror film. Instead, it’s a minimalist character-driven drama that’s so well executed that at first glance, you may not even notice that it was filmed entirely on an iPhone.
As a feature film directorial debut, it’s beautifully shot. For the first 6 minutes, there’s no dialogue. Instead, the audience is treated to a masterful montage of our characters as they get ready to reunite. Director Anthony Z. James is incredibly confident in his compositions, and he should be! Ghost is a display of genuine talent and an introduction to a career that I’m genuinely excited for.
There’s one shot where our main characters are standing away from each other, but through use of reflection they’re made to appear like they’re standing side by side. Reflections play a particularly important role in the film, being that our main characters are father and son, and it’s impressive to see how James emphasizes those visual contrasts given the limited resources he has at his disposal.
The film revolves around a recently released convict by the name of Anthony or “Tone.” Shortly after coming home, he runs into his son, Conor, and the two spend the day catching up. Not having seen each other for 10 years, there’s a lot to discuss. Conor missed Tone, but he’s equally mad at him for not being there for some of the most crucial years of his life.
Over the course of the film, the two bond. Tone takes Conor to some of his favorite places, and the two reflect on the men they’ve become. There’s a nice little parallel in the story when Conor discovers that he’s about to become a father himself. He’s forced to come to terms with whether or not he’ll be a good dad because he’s never had one, all the while Tone is convinced that there’s still time to be one.
The film is surprisingly complex because of the dynamic and the relationship between our two main characters. And even though the film’s climax feels a bit forced, it further amplifies their relationship, and especially underlines the love that Tone has for his son.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Anthony Mark Streeter and Nathan Hamilton play Tone and Conor respectively, and both of them are brilliant to watch. Tone is the more physical of the two, not just in the way that he’s quick to act, but in the way he carries himself. Streeter’s portrayal of him requires a lot more physicality. When we first meet him, he’s hunched over - almost like a brute. Ironically, he doesn’t come across as one, even though we find out that at one point that’s what he was. Instead, it feels like he’s trying to maintain that demeanor to survive in the world that he’s no longer familiar with. He’s the perfect balance of intimidating and restrained; a combination of characteristics that I don’t think is easy to achieve.
Conor is definitely the more mouthier. He loves to come across as a tough guy, and not even the threat of death can change that as we see during the film’s climax. Even when he wants to act, we never really see him do anything too crazy. During a confrontation with his girlfriend towards the end of the film, we actually see him break down, proving that his attitude is just a front. Deep down, he’s a good person, but he’s so torn about what type of man he should be because his father wasn’t there to show him.
There’s never a dull moment with our main characters; however my biggest problem with this film was its secondary characters. All of them are one-dimensional, easily irritable, and as mentioned before, they all conveniently come together to antagonize our main characters in the third act. I feel like the film could actually do without them because they ultimately just feel like devices to move Tone and Conor along. Personally, I think that they already have more than enough in their own lives to contest with.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
'Ghost' Is A Quiet Meditation About Growing Up And Letting Go.
Effects, makeup, design - they’re all virtually absent here. Instead, the film relies on its actors, camerawork, and overall practicality. The result is the best possible product in my opinion. Any eccentric effects would contradict the quality of the film.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound design and score are equally deserving of praise because they both help to elevate the film. The music that plays during the opening montage almost feels like a musical’s overture, setting the tone for the entire piece. The sound design, like the camerawork, is just as responsible for immersing you in the film and making you forget about the unconventional means in which it was put together. Going into this film, knowing that it was shot on iPhone, I wasn’t expecting it to sound like a home movie, but I wasn’t expecting it to sound like a studio picture either.
Most people - myself included - can barely take a selfie in the mirror with an iPhone without having to fumble around with the settings, but this movie looks like it was made effortlessly. I might be saying this because I have a soft spot for unconventional films, or maybe because I’m a sucker for films about father-son relationships, but I think Ghost is good. Technicality aside, it’s a surprisingly grounded film about redemption and a quiet meditation about growing up and letting go.