A Ghost Story
In which Rooney Mara viciously eats pie…
Writer: David Lowery
Director: David Lowery
Cinematographer: Andrew Droz Palermo
Rooney Mara – M
Casey Affleck – C
So there is such a thing as ghosts
In this quiet indie flick, a young man named C dies feet away from the home he shares with his wife, M. Unknown to her, he returns as a (mostly) benevolent ghost, draped in a simple white sheet. But our friendly ghost doesn’t so much haunt but lingers – in doorways and bedrooms – passively watching as M mourns him, while families pass through and friends discuss the ephemeral nature of humanity.
To say this film is simply about grief and loss would be reductive. Perhaps ironically, it’s actually an examination of life and the spaces we occupy. A Ghost Story may be a tender, delicate movie but it manages to have an expansive, outward focus.
Wandering through familiar haunts
One thing that makes A Ghost Story so poignant is the pace that peters along. Comprised of slow meditative scenes that focus on the intimate and every day where little really happens. But it’s in those moments, as the seconds draw on and less and less happens, you find yourself leaning in, expectantly waiting for more. And from these scenes, we come to understand what it’s like to be C.
In some ways, we as the audience become ghosts as well; watching C watch M, usually with the camera distancing us from them. Often peering through doorways or at the end of the driveway. In fact, there’s a particular scene in which we watch one version of C’s ghost stare at another version of his ghost and as onlookers, we become part of the ‘ghost inception’. So you are not only drawn to their story but into it and that’s what keeps you so enwrapped.
And at times, the pace touches on the absurd. Take, for instance, the five minutes of M sitting on the kitchen floor, barbarically shovelling pie into her mouth while fending off tears. Watching her haphazard use of a fork (for me at least) added a little levity that undercuts the heartbreak of it all.
- The imagery – There are countless images of M being mere fingertips away from C without her realising it. And what’s sadder is that C can see how little distance there is between them but there’s no way to bridge it.
- The poetry – The fact that M leaves notes in the wall of old homes so there will always be a piece of her there. And in that way, she is never really gone, even when she leaves.
- Perhaps most importantly, Kesha’s unexpected cameo.
Casey Affleck isn’t asked to say or do much in terms of delivering lines, yet the few he does are essentially mumble-core (thank God for subtitles). Now, I don’t know if his voice was hoarse from disuse on set but I feel like somewhere in the course of production, someone should have pulled him aside and had a few words.
It ends with a handwritten note
A Ghost Story is about not only the grieving but the dead. And although it’s only 92 minutes long, it feels much bigger than that.