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.
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.Book now