A film where Casey Affleck spends 90% of the running time dressed like a last-minute Halloween costume and in which a camera sits and focuses on Rooney Mara for nine minutes as she devours a pie could have gone, well, any number of ways to be honest but most of them would be bad. However, if you can stomach the long lingering shots and the Terrence Malick feel to this dreamy reflection on grief, then there is something here. I’m not quite sure what, but it’s there.
Filmed in an aspect ratio of 1:33:1, this is the second time that director David Lowery has teamed up with Affleck and Mara having previously worked with them on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Here, we are introduced to a young couple credited only as C (Affleck) and M (Mara) who live in a house that goes bump in the night. When C is killed in a car accident, he awakens in the morgue draped in a sheet with two cut out holes for eyes. Rather than moving on, he decides to return to his former home and, unseen, watches M get on with her life.
Any scares that might have been possible are quickly removed by C’s ridiculous get up, but as the film goes on, there is an undeniable tension to it. Unable to see Affleck’s face he relies on the limited body language that the sheet provides and his motives are hidden to us. It leaves us questioning what is happening to him as time passes. As M moves out and a new family moves in, is he growing malicious or jaded? What remains of C’s personality underneath that white sheet?
With Affleck hidden away a lot of this film rests on the shoulders of Mara and she carries it bravely. The pie eating scene mentioned above is incredible and while there are obviously some that will scoff, as a physical expression of grief, it is acting at its purest. Not a word is said and yet a million things are understood by that one scene.
However, it does point to this film’s issue and it’s one that the director seems to be well aware of. Where some people see subtle and dreamy others see a load of pretentious guff and quite frankly it’s easy to understand why. If this film doesn’t capture you within the first ten minutes it probably never will and more than a few people walked out during my screening. If you are able to engage, though, A Ghost Story is a bold look at grief and how one is supposed to move on and it will linger with you long after it finishes.
Verdict: Hall Of Fame