Talking to Ghosts
May 14, 2023
Ryan J. Smith
Ryan J. Smith
Nina Holland-Smith, Neizan Fernandez, Grahame Edwards, Hannah Miller
‘Talking to Ghosts’ is full of ideas that have been done before, and often to a great quality, however, rarely are those ideas rehashed to such a dull, monotonous effect. Ryan J. Smith’s film takes the tried and tested plot of a woman in despair forced to extreme action to make ends meet but removes any drama or weight from the situation.
The remorseful overtures that open ‘Talking to Ghosts’ as clips of Ciara (Nina Holland-Smith) and Jack (Harry McLafferty) in a faux found footage style play immediately lets you know that tragedy will strike this young couple. The event unto itself eventually unravels - Jack left her heartbroken after their child was lost in childbirth - tearing Ciara’s life apart. She’s sad, lonely, poor and living with Jessica (Hannah Miller) and her boyfriend Peter (Jake Waring). Life has taken a sharp turn for the worst for Ciara, and as is always the case in films like this, it gets a whole lot worse before it gets better.
Inevitably, she brings it on herself, agreeing to delve into the black market arms business to raise some cash. With the guidance of Peter, who masks a lot behind his honest demeanour, she finds an opportunity, and sets out with Robin (Neizan Fernandez) to carry out a deal. Their client is larger than life crime author Joseph Skinner (Grahame Edwards), who at least provides some spark with his glorious overacting when the deal goes awry.
The key problem lies with Ryan J. Smith’s screenplay, which is derivative, full of cliches, and melodramatic. His characters are written are too dumb. They lack even basic common sense, making frustratingly stupid decisions and ceaselessly moaning about easily reconcilable matters. This especially comes to the fore in the dialogue, in which even the classic ‘you know, you and I are not so different after all’ is used. No line feels truly original, as though scripts from several similar films have been meshed together. Crucially, the script also lacks subtext, ignoring the most basic guidance of ‘show don’t tell’. Instead of having Ciara tell us that she ‘won’t become a sob story, that’s not going to happen’, why not show us through her actions, her expressions or through a shot. Film is a visual medium of storytelling, ‘Talking to Ghosts’ fails to understand that.
The poor screenplay, unfortunately, makes the performances feel a lot more wooden and unnatural. No actor is charismatic enough to hold together such a turgid screenplay, not even Edwards’ overacting carries enough charm, and thus the film begins to drag within the first twenty minutes. Nina Holland-Smith is fine as Ciara, and delivers a solid performance in the lead role, but she doesn’t command the screen, and neither do any of the supporting cast around her.
This makes for a rather hollow experience, reflected in Smith’s rather bland directing, as the film feels slow and drawn-out, when in fact very little happens, both in terms of plot and character development. Key to ‘Talking to Ghosts’ problems is the woeful screenplay, which causes a remarkable lack of gravitas in a film which should, on paper, be wrought with tension and emotions.