A Ghost Story, 2017.
Written and Directed by David Lowery.
Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.
In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.
A Ghost Story features a roughly 4-minute scene of Rooney Mara’s grief stricken wife (known in the film simply as M) eating pie while her tragically deceased lover (Casey Affleck’s C) looks on motionless as a ghost covered in a white bedsheet (complete with cut out eye hole sockets). It’s the kind of quirky, self-indulgent hipster nonsense I would normally roll my eyes at, but here, holy fuck does writer/director David Lowery (last year’s live-action remake of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints which also starred Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) squeeze every possible ounce and drop of emotion and empathy from such a mundane activity; it’s like a damn anaconda vice grip. It doesn’t just stop there either; there are a collection of profound moments that greater put into perspective the process of dealing with loss. That’s just one theme though, as A Ghost Story is packed with musings on many different aspects of life and the afterlife.
For the sake of the reader’s appreciation for the film, however, I don’t actually want to go into much detail at all regarding this one-of-a-kind experience. Pretty much every other story in existence about a supernatural being comes packaged with some sort of back story on terrible things that happened in a location and why an area is now presumed haunted, so what’s undeniably fascinating here is that A Ghost Story feels like the viewer is witnessing those origins unfold. Except it’s obviously not horror, but rather never-ending existential torment. These two souls are utterly crushed they’re no longer together, even though Casey Affleck is RIGHT THERE by her side monitoring her every movement in the house. It’s heartbreaking to actually watch, and keep in mind I’m really only discussing the first 15 minutes here, as the film continuously only gets more depressing. It should be required by law that theaters have to give moviegoers a big-ass tub of ice cream to stuff their faces with while they watch this all-consuming sadness.
All of the emotion hits harder considering the beautiful creative decision for the cinematography and aspect ratio to look as if it were a still photograph freshly taken. That also ties into more of the grander picture behind the expressive behemoth that is A Ghost Story, which is making memories and preserving things to pass on down to future generations, whether it is on the scale of a Beethoven Symphony or something more intimate and exclusively for the special people in one’s life. To much shock, the film also poetically explores time itself in ways that simply cannot be foreseen. The ambition poured into A Ghost Story is almost overwhelming, but calculated and methodical direction from David Lowery tie everything into a perfect bow. The basic story might be nonexistent and fleeting, but the substance on display will be remembered for eons. Just like one of those talked about Beethoven symphonies, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story will be discussed among film group circles until the end of time.
What story there is consistently takes unexpected turns as David Lowery has one thought-provoking idea after another to maintain the movie from devolving into repetitiveness. There are even brief, light comedic moments of ghosts communicating with one another telepathically (subtitles are at the bottom of the screen). Eventually, even this too transcends into soul-crushing sadness. For better or worse, the last 15 minutes are arguably what audiences will remember most; the plot truly swerves us and ends on one hell of an emotionally impactful closing shot. Unfortunately, the audience I was with didn’t even understand the movie, which is actually quite baffling as even for its minimalistic presentation, it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to understand what’s going on at all times. Just be prepared for the unexpected and to approach appreciating the film for more than being about both humans and spirits grieving.
Honestly, that’s as far as this review is going. All that needs to be known is that with almost no dialogue Casey Affleck can make audiences feel multiple different emotions ranging from sadness to anxiety to panic and more all behind a white bedsheet, while Rooney Mara’s suffering is palpable. The less you know about A Ghost Story before checking it out the better; it’s a masterpiece and so far the best film of 2017. It will make audiences ponder the meaning of life from both old and new perspectives.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★