In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost (Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife (Rooney Mara).
A Ghost Story was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, mostly because of Rooney Mara’s involvement. David Lowery is a good director, giving us Pete’s Dragon and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which were very solid movies. He reunited with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara (who he worked with on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) to create a secret independent low budget film, which happens to be A Ghost Story. I had honestly no idea what to expect going in. After seeing it finally, I have to say that A Ghost Story is a very odd movie, I can’t really compare it to any other film I’ve ever seen. Talking about this movie is difficult, because its much more of an experience than a movie. I’m not entirely sure what I watched but I can say that I liked it a lot.
As pretentious and cliché as it sounds, A Ghost Story isn’t a movie, its an experience. This movie has a very slow pace, and despite it being under 90 minutes long it can feel very long. Some scenes can go on for a long time (sometimes nothing at all is happening) but for some reason, I was still glued to the screen. There is an infamous scene involving a pie, which will ultimately will be the tester of patience for audiences. There’s also not much dialogue, in fact most of the dialogue of the whole movie takes place closer to the middle of the movie in just one scene in one monologue. That monologue without giving anything away is really something great. This film isn’t structured like a conventional movie, it doesn’t have 3 acts. It’s just following Casey Affleck’s character (who most of the time is in ghost form). As for how I actually felt about A Ghost Story, I don’t actually know what to really say. It’s very hard to describe my thoughts and feelings from it. I definitely felt something indescribable, I wouldn’t say that I was overwhelmed by it like some of the other people who have seen it though. Oddly enough I wasn’t bored once, I was completely invested in the story that David Lower was telling. I honestly can’t say that I completely know what I think of the movie overall. I might need to watch it again at some point, maybe then I’ll really get the full effect of it. What I can say is that it is a unique movie and that I was intrigued from start to finish and watching it truly was an experience.
Even though its not the focus of the movie, we get some great performances here. Rooney Mara is unsurprisingly fantastic here, she really is one of the best actresses working today. She does so well in her small screentime. She’s so convincing as someone who is in grief, the aforementioned pie scene is an example of this, the scene partly worked so well because of Rooney’s acting (on another note, this scene is one of the best representations of grief in a movie). It’s the subtlety that she infuses into her performance, her subtle facial expressions allow you to tell what her character is thinking and feeling without having to say anything. Casey Affleck does good work here, most of the time he’s under a sheet (it really is Casey under the sheet for at least the majority of the ghost’s screentime) and not saying anything but he does very well.
This film is shot in 1:33:1, so the film seemed to be in a somewhat squared frame. It somehow worked for the movie, giving it an old timely look. There are so many long unbroken takes, sometimes nothing is happening at all but for some reason I never got bored or got annoyed. There’s something so real and lonely about some of the long takes makes it so effective. The decision to have the ghost as just a figure under a bed sheet sounds incredibly silly and goofy but there’s some melancholic about it that makes it work surprisingly well. It doesn’t feel silly at all. The production design, for a low budget film ($100,000 to be precise) was actually quite good. It mostly just takes place inside this one house and it helps to convey this feeling of confinement. The transition of time was also created and edited well, making the shift in time feel seemless. The score by Daniel Hart is great, one of the best scores of the year. There’s something about David Lowery’s direction that makes the film work so well and I can’t quite pin down what it is just yet.
A Ghost Story isn’t for everyone, I can understand people who don’t really like it. It’s very slow and unconventional. As for me, although it is difficult for me to describe how I felt about the movie, upon further thought it just might be one of the best films of the year. I can see myself revisiting it and potentially appreciating it much more. I recommend seeing it but it’s not a movie that you can enjoy while having expectations, which is why I’m not telling you to expect anything. Just give it a chance, you may end up having one of the most unique and emotional experiences with a movie ever.