David Lowery’s A Ghost Story might be a masterpiece, as it explores the boredom, constrictions and the voluntary eternity of the afterlife.
Now, I know what you are saying. Boredom? Eternity? Why would I want to see this movie? Well, you might not want to if you are feeling that way already. The film almost broke me actually, in an early scene, when Lowery spends two extended shots, over about five plus minutes, watching Rooney Mara eat a pie. No music, no editing, no fancy camera work, just Mara eating a pie. My patience ran about as thin as it could get. But from there, the movie begins to show us what it is, and the necessity of the scene comes into focus. Lowery had to show us how dull and uninteresting this experience is going to be for the titular ghost, played by Casey Affleck, as this is his first experience in the afterlife.
The rest of the film doesn’t follow in this scene’s footsteps, as Lowery begins to flex his directorial muscle, while also bringing some incredibly interesting ideas to the table. This is a film about observation and the passage of time, and Lowery makes every sequence interesting and compelling through his beautiful frames (props to cinematographer, Andrew Droz Palermo), clever editing and a script that keeps on surprising. When one particular element gets introduced into the film, right after the pie scene actually, I was immediately drawn back into the film and realized that Lowery can do just about anything with this film. The way he conveys the passage of time in the film is particularly brilliant, letting us know Affleck has been at this a while without deliberately taking us through every second. Daniel Hart’s score is also essential to this film’s experience, elevating Lowery’s film just like every great score is supposed to.
The actors in the film are all excellent when they get their chance, but outside Mara, nobody’s face is on screen all that long. Mara takes us through her character’s grief and growth as masterfully as we’ve come to expect from her, letting us in on so much without uttering a word. She even sneaks in some tears into that pie scene, that lets us know this is a big moment for both of our lovers; Affleck is first experiencing the afterlife and Mara finally feeling the release of grief. Affleck only gets a couple moments to shine through dialogue, but the way he carries himself under that sheet, you can feel this guy’s pain and unfinished business as he saunters around his past home. Will Oldham is the only other actor who gets a real showcase, he might actually have the most lines in the film, as he delivers this beautiful monologue mulling our existence and importance in the grand scheme of the universe, that fits in beautifully with Affleck’s experience walking through this film.
A Ghost Story isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you can get on its wavelength David Lowery has created something truly unique and special. I can’t stop thinking about the film and the only complaint I had while watching it makes perfect sense (and is essential) once things are all said and done. Lowery is quite the talent, I can’t wait to see what he does next.