Australian Council on Children and the Media

A Ghost Story

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Not suitable under 13; parental guidance strongly recommended 13 to 15 due to disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A Ghost Story
  • a review of A Ghost Story completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 3 August 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language
Children 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language
Viewers 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: A Ghost Story
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and occasional coarse language
Length 90 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

“C” (Casey Affleck) and “M” (Rooney Mara) live in a small house in Texas. C is a musician/song writer while M seems to spend her time writing secret messages on pieces of paper which she hides in cracks in the walls of their house so as to leave a small piece of herself behind as a reminder that she had lived there. Meanwhile there are strange lights that dance on the walls and piano sounds in the middle of the night. They make a decision to move, but the next day C is killed in a car crash in front of their house.

When we next see M she is standing in a hospital next to C’s dead body, which is covered with a sheet. When M leaves the hospital, C’s ghost, in the form of the sheet-covered body suddenly rises up and follows her home where he stands in silence watching M dealing with her grief and loss.

Finally M moves on and moves out, while C takes longer to find peace.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Ghosts and the supernatural; death and grief

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in the film, including

  • The death of a main character in a car accident. The aftermath is shown with the two damaged cars and his dead body slumped and bleeding
  • Scenes of a family attacked by Native Americans with war cries and shouts. Afterwards dead adults and children lie with arrows sticking out of bloody wounds, and there are brief images of their bodies decomposing.
  • C’s ghost throws and smashes plates in anger

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Supernatural occurrences include scratching sounds on walls inside a house, lights turning on and off, eerie patterns of light reflecting off walls with no obvious source, and a piano playing in the middle of the night.
  • C’s ghost is scary – his body covered by a sheet with eye holes cut out. Children are likely to be particularly disturbed by the scene when the ghost sits up on the hospital bed and scenes where he walks through walls.
  • Suffering from the grief after C’s death, M eats almost the whole of a large pie, then makes a dash for the toilet and vomits - we hear the sound of retching.
  • C’s ghost stands on top of a tall building and then falls off and plummets towards the ground but do not see him hit the ground.
  • In one scene depicting a haunting we see a young boy and older girl asleep in their beds. The young boy is woken by a noise and looks to see the wardrobe door opening and points his toy gun at C’s ghost.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger viewers in this group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes and themes in this movie.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • laptops, headphones and the Internet

Sexual references

Nothing of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains some sexual activity and partial nudity. Examples include:

  • We see a man and woman lie on a couch the man cuddling and he caresses her bare abdomen.
  • A man and woman are asleep in bed when they are woken by a noise. When they get up to investigate the man is naked from the waist up and she has a sheet wrapped around her body revealing bare shoulders and cleavage.
  • We see a man and woman in bed touching and caressing each other’s face and hands kissing foreheads and the kissing each other passionately on the lips repeatedly along with back rubbing until the pair fall asleep.     
  • During a party, men and women dance and kiss.

Use of substances

Social drinking by adults

Coarse language

The film contains minimal coarse language. Examples include:

  • ‘fucking why?’; ‘ holy shit’

In a nutshell

A Ghost Story is targeted at adults and is not recommended for children or young teens. Although it is about death and a ghost, it is not a horror story but explores love, loss, grief, and mortality. The film’s disturbing scenes, its themes, and the level of concentration and alternate thinking required, make it unsuitable for under 13s and parental guidance is strongly recommended for the 13 to 15 age group.

Parents of older children may wish to discuss the perspective taken by the film and the way in which it leaves things unsaid, allowing viewers to find answers for themselves.  

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