A Ghost Story

  • DIRECTOR DAVID LOWERY
  • STARRING CASEY AFFLECK, ROONEY MARA
  • RELEASE DATE 11th Aug, 2017
  • CERTIFICATE 12A
  • RUNNING TIME 92 MINS

This critically acclaimed film was one of Sundance 2017’s most talked-about titles. And not just because it stars Casey Affleck garbed only in a bed sheet with eyeholes for most of its running time.

The poster image of what resembles a child’s Halloween costume may suggest that this is a horror movie. It isn’t, although there are initial shades of Paranormal Activity in a scenario that sees a loved-up couple (Affleck and Rooney Mara) awake with a jolt and shuffle to the living room to investigate a mysterious bump in the night.

Whereas the husband, a bearded musician known only as C, is happy in their faded suburban house, his restless young wife, M, aches to move on. When C is suddenly killed in a car accident, his body winds up in the hospital morgue. His spirit then rises off the slab, cloaked in a long, white, billowing sheet, and returns to haunt his home, and M, as she grieves, then moves on, and the world speeds on around him.

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It’s another stunning performance from Affleck, who has to portray curiosity, a yearning love, pathos and humour, without a single part of himself being visible. It also rekindles his natural on-screen chemistry with Rooney Mara, with whom he co-starred in the poetic Texan ballad, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. That’s no coincidence. A Ghost Story springs from the same unique vision of director David Lowery.

Quietly emerging as one of America’s most exciting and versatile talents, Lowery most recently wowed cross-generational audiences across the planet with his Disney live-action hit, Pete’s Dragon. A Ghost Story is told on a deliberately different scale. Most obviously it’s shot in the 1.33:1 ratio (the shape of an old-school square TV), whose box frame suggests you’re looking through a retro viewfinder, or at an old Polaroid photo. Our gaze instantly has an intimacy. In one memorable scene, we intrude on the privacy of a grieving Mara comfort-eating an entire chocolate pie in one single, astonishing, five-minute-long take.

As befits a movie pre-occupied by time, it’s also told at a very particular pace. Lowery has cited “slow cinema” Asian directors, like Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang (What Time Is It There?) and Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), as inspirations for A Ghost Story. As viewers, we are refreshingly granted time and space to muse on what unfolds. It’s a study in loss, solitude, in the universal search for meaning and the romantic need for connection. A ghost story, yes, but a love story also. It’s a beautiful mood piece that will haunt you for ages after you’ve exited the auditorium.

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