Indie filmmakers are some of the bravest entrepreneurs of all. And when I say indie, I mean the most indie of indie, the ones scraping together money for a camera and debuting actors because no one who’s anyone will leap with them. These small-time filmmakers do what they do for the love of cinema, and no matter how rough the edges are of their final product, so long as they make the film with their heart, they deserve applause. Anthony Z. James is one such filmmaker taking that audacious leap and, armed with only an iPhone and a specially made lens, he gifts cinema his heart with his debut feature Ghost.
Ghost follows Tony Ward (Anthony Mark Streeter), an ex-con newly released from prison now left with plenty of doors to close from his old criminal life. When he returns home, he is ignored by his wife (Emmy Happisburgh) and left with nowhere to go. So he wanders until he meets his son Conor (Nathan Hamilton), and they awkwardly interact the way only two people separated for a long time can. From here begins a tale of reconnection that is often touching and endearing, only suffering from an unfortunately uneven ending.
The life of crime Tony led creeps up on him and his son throughout the film. From their first trip to see some old friends to their final violent crescendo. Interwoven between that is Conor stressing over the revelation he too is soon to be a father, when his friend Kat (Severija Bielskyte) informs him unexpectedly, and he spirals into denial. Here Conor is put on the precipice of following a path darker than he knows. Tony once stood there too, young and on the verge of fatherhood; it’s what began his life of crime, the delirious need for money. The anxiety and building tensions of the world around him push Conor to the edge, and the core of the film is us following the two men seeing if they can fight off the temptation to walk on the dark side.
All in all, these themes are very well presented by James. The locations are consistently gritty and cold, echoing the theme of grey that shrouds the main characters. Though, perhaps the most surprising and enjoyable aspect is the two performances themselves. Low budget films struggle in the acting department, sometimes because of time constraints and other times simply because of a lack of experience; no matter the reason, it’s the nature of the game. However, Hamilton and Streeter defy the odds and deliver consistently powerful work. They share a bond built on the resentment of a son losing his father and perfectly evolve it as Conor sees more and more of his father in himself.
What doesn’t work so well is the films ending, which tags on in a manner that feels like the film couldn’t figure out where else to go. It would be harsh to go so far as to say it’s completely random, but it is tonally off with the rest of the film. It takes the catharsis we were beginning to see and throws it in the blender, and I’m just unsure why. However, it ultimately does bring all the characters to a conclusion, and it is respectable that the script didn’t leave characters hanging, as that would not have worked here either.
Ghost is the perfect encapsulation of a debut feature and will serve as a sturdy foundation for Antony Z. James to build upon.
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