BIFF: Ghost Town Anthology (2019)

There’s a selfishness to grief. A sliver of it. The pain of losing someone resonates in part because it reminds us of our own mortality. So it is in Ghost Town Anthology, where the sudden suicide of 21 year-old Simon sends the small town of Irénée-les-Neiges into a tailspin. It’s not just the obvious impact the death has on Simon’s family – his unemployed brother, his despairing mother, his disappearing father – but the ripples that spread into the tiny, failing town and threaten to upend it entirely.

The title refers not only to Irénée-les-Neiges’ crumbling local economy, but literal ghosts that begin to haunt the town. Director Denis Côté’s approach to the supernatural material recalls Personal Shopper – straightforward yet spooky. This keeps the metaphorical import of the ghosts – like webs of mortality clinging to the townsfolk – front and centre, and is elevated by the snowy surrounds and grainy 16mm film, recalling sepia photographs.

For me, what keeps Ghost Town Anthology a curiosity rather than a revelation is its broad-brushed approach, splitting its focus equally among a cohort of largely unlikeable villagers. Without a particular protagonist to sympathise with, the atmosphere is entrancing but never captivating in the way it strives for.

3 stars

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