Between Personal Shopper and David Lowery's A Ghost Story, 2017 has been a good year for thought-provoking ghost movies. Lowery's film is the stranger of the two, but still one of the most memorable movies in quite some time. It's an entrancing contemplation of love and loss, an exploration through time of what it means to be connected to a place, to a person.
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck play an unnamed couple. We don't learn much about them, but we learn that they are in love. A heavy sense of dread pervades these early scenes of the film. Affleck's character dies and his ghost returns to his house to observe first Mara, then other occupants of the house and the land on which it sits. It has been said that when a person dies in a sudden traumatic way (like the car crash Affleck's character dies from), their soul remains tethered to something that feels familiar. For this ghost, that place is the house he shared with Mara's character and felt connected to even before he dies. Time appears to work differently for the ghost as centuries pass in what feels like a couple of minutes. In that way the movie reminded me, weirdly, of Interstellar. It examines our legacy, a note we leave in the wall, a song we write, and asks the question what outlives us. But the film is more comforting than the pretentious scientific explanation of death spouted off by a drunk guy at a party at the center of the movie would suggest. The guy says trying to leave a legacy is ultimately pointless because everything will eventually die anyway, but the movie's not that nihilistic. That the ghost is tethered to the house in the first place means that there was something there, something that didn't die when he did.
The ghost is represented, not by makeup or digital effects, but by a white sheet with eyeholes cut out. The image is not as funny as when Charlie Brown wears the same costume. It's odd, surprising, but one that immediately allows the audience to understand the situation and to sympathize with the ghost. Although he never speaks (he does silently communicate with another ghost in one eery subtitled scene), the ghost is remarkably able to convey his frustration and loneliness.
A Ghost Story is David Lowery's third film as a director. Mara and Affleck had previously worked with him on his first feature, Ain't Them Bodies Saints. His second was last year's remake of Pete's Dragon. If that seems like a weird movie to be sandwiched in between two much smaller arthouse films, that's because it is. A mainstream kids movie doesn't seem like it would be something Lowery would have much interest in making, but I'm glad he did because Pete's Dragon was excellent and you should see it if you haven't already. With only three movies under his belt he has established himself as a director who can work successfully on both small and large scale projects. Whatever he chooses to do next will definitely have my attention.
What did you think of A Ghost Story? Leave a comment to let me know! Thanks for reading!