Don’t Give Up The Ghost

December 17, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Posted in 2016 | 2 Comments
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

I was not going to write a review for this movie. It is a very small, independent film that has not found a distributor and may never show up in the theaters. I was invited to the screening at my local Berkeley theater by a friend of the director because my back has the tiniest of cameos in one scene. And of my acting debut, I will only say this– I should have dressed better. Oh well. So, while it is entirely possible that none of you will ever get a chance to see this film, I found it charming enough that I wanted to write a review. I did this partly so that I can record my thoughts now in case it is ever released and partly because this blog is how I remember the films I have seen and I don’t want to forget this one. Director Jean Louis Milesi is an established French screenwriter who moved to the U.S. years ago and is now making his full length directorial debut. The film focuses on three French boys (played by his sons) who visit Berkeley with their American mother and get involved in a murder/ghost story. This is a very small budget affair and most of the actors are not professionals. The acting is awkward, stilted and melodramatic at times, though the Milesi boys themselves are honesty some of the better actors in the film. There is a light, sweet humor and playfulness in the film’s tone and those boys are responsible for creating that. It helps that they are already siblings and the depth of that relationship is obvious but they also show a natural gift for the film’s rhythms; its humor is their own. While the dialogue really stumbles in places (there are lines and, in fact, whole scenes that sound completely false), it can also be genuinely engaging and clever at times. And, perhaps more importantly, the overall story is a lovely one. This is a delightful example of magical realism, where the audience is never quite sure if there really is something supernatural going on or perhaps it is just the boys’ imaginations. The title has multiple means, alluding both to the concept of death (as in “giving up the ghost”) and also the idea of continuing to believe in ghosts and all things intangible. The film starts with a statement to the effect that you cannot see either ghosts or love and many people do not believe in them but they are both true. On a deeper level, this film is about both of those concepts. It is really the story of the middle son, who perhaps believes in ghosts because he is carrying some of his own. It is about how his brothers learn to believe in him and, through their love, give him the strength to confront those ghosts. As rough as the film was in some ways, this silly, goofy comedy became a really touching family story and that’s quite an accomplishment for any director.



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  1. I really appreciate your review even if, of course, I disagree with one sentence, I let you guess which one😉
    You have very well captured the spirit of my movie, the differents levels and differents concepts. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Jean-Louis. I’m sure the one sentence you disagree with is the one where I bemoan my choice of clothing as an extra 😉

      As with all the films I have really enjoyed, I grow more fond of yours the more I think on it. It was a joy to watch.

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