Director David Lowry trades dragons for ghouls as he reunites previous co-stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck once again in his ethereal tale of yearning, loss and learning to let go - and pies.
In what will perhaps prove to be one of the most misleading film titles of the year, A Ghost Story will surely disappoint any paying customers expecting to see a feature comparable to Poltergeist or The Others. What it will do, however, is give you something that you undoubtedly would have not witnessed on the big screen before now. Lowry's truly unique and haunting take on the classic horror trope finds a recently deceased Casey Affleck donning full bedsheet garb – eyeholes and all - as he returns to his home in which he once lived, to keep a close watch on his mourning partner (Mara). Time, though, inevitably moves on, leaving the Ghost trying to figure out how he must do also.
Admittedly, after first watching the trailer for this film, I struggled to find myself being able to see past the almost too pretentious idea of a top Oscar-winning actor waltzing around on screen with a sheet over his head. But, Lowry and his costume design team did a fantastic job of making Affleck's ghost look less like something out of a terrible sketch show, and more like a work of art; the way he glides effortlessly from room to room and through fields is spellbinding to watch.
The film as a whole is aesthetically gorgeous, and what it may lack in dialogue it more than makes up for with lavish, meticulously framed shots – even if some of them are painstakingly long. One scene in particular that involves Mara's character comfort eating her way through a whole pie is particularly difficult to watch, yet it is through its tediousness that we find ourselves connecting with her emotionally on a human level. It is indeed a moving yet simple scene, and one that will be debated with divided opinions for years to come. Mara and Affleck had already worked together once before on one of Lowry's previous films, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, and the connection between the two actors was made abundantly clear, even with the few lines of dialogue that they each have.
The perception of time plays a vital role within this film; the narrative itself is looping and often non-linear and can subsequently become a little confusing. Watching the Ghost float through a variety of time periods – be that future or past – searching for his purpose amongst the rubble that once was his home, is both agonizing and enthralling - and it is at these moments when the film is at its most captivating.
Directors that break the revered Hollywood barrier, like Lowry already has, quite often find themselves reverting back to their indie roots for what is essentially a sanctimonious passion-piece, and this film could so easily have fallen victim to that fate. It may be a slow-burner, but this contemporary gothic tale is a masterpiece in its own right, and – if you stick with it - your patience will most certainly be rewarded.
Book your ticket to A Ghost Story here.