A GHOST STORY
*** (out of 5)
July 28, 2017
Casey Affleck as C
Rooney Mara as M
Directed by: David Lowery
BY KEVIN CARR
It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s important to note that “A Ghost Story,” while a quite literal title to the film, isn’t your traditional ghost story. If you’re expecting a new take on “The Conjuring” or “Paranormal Activity,” you’ll be sorely disappointed. Similarly, if you’re expecting some form of modern horror film, you will be equally disappointed.
However, that does not mean that “A Ghost Story” isn’t effective and isn’t a decent movie. It’s just completely different than you’d be led to believe based on its title.
The story follows married couple identified only as C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) through snapshots of their life living in a modest house with a questionable history. Contemplating whether it’s haunted, they share several moments talking about the history and even reacting to a late-night ghostly encounter. However, the focus of the film is on their relationship, which seems to be crumbling at times while they have trouble being honest with each other.
After a car crash kills C, M returns home in grief. At the same time, a ghostly version of C, presented with the deliberately cliche look of a man covered in a sheet with eye holes cut in it, rises from his body and follows his wife home. We see him waiting for her, searching for a final message she leaves in the walls before disappearing from the property.
“A Ghost Story” manages some truly well-conceived ideas of a ghostly existence unbound by time and traditional reality. The viewer is taken along with C as he languishes in his familiar home, even when he finds himself long past the time of any human companionship. In this sense, the film is fascinating, making us feel like time doesn’t matter as the story jumps ahead years and decades.
Though there are times when this concept is overplayed and gets in its own way. For example, in one leg of C’s journey, we see the home owned by a group of twentysomethings having a late night party. The film bogs down painfully at this moment, becoming overly self-aware and hitching its wagon to a late-night philosophical blowhard that sucks the life out of our little ghost story. Similarly, in her moments of guilt, we watch M wrestle with her emotions in situations that seem less about experiencing those emotions and more about padding out the film with odd acts and mundane events.
In the end, “A Ghost Story” isn’t completely fulfilling, but that’s never the point of the film. We are supposed to feel like C’s ghost waiting too long for a final message that may or may not include closure. At its heart “A Ghost Story” is a movie about unfulfillment, so the audience is meant to walk away with a bit of an empty feeling.