Review: This ‘Ghost Story’ is Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Seen Before

A24’s latest will haunt you long after you leave the theater.

RATING: ★★★1/2 (out of four stars)

Casey Affleck silently walks around for 80 minutes underneath a bed sheet? Rooney Mara takes almost 10 minutes to eat an entire pie? Yes, what’ve you seen and read about A Ghost Story dating back to this year’s Sundance Film Festival is true. On paper, the title of the movie seems self-explanatory. But what you see play out over the course of the movie’s 87-minute runtime is much more than just someone in the afterlife roaming around.

When I first saw A Ghost Story, I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of director David Lowery’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) latest feature. With so many questions in my head, I almost entirely dismissed this movie, other than to note that it was slow and serene. But the time between me seeing the movie and writing this review has given me enough distance to digest everything I witnessed on screen (minus the vegan chocolate pie eaten). In retrospect, I realize that this movie still haunts me (but not in the terrifying way), even though I saw it at a press screening here in Nashville two weeks ago.

In A Ghost Story, Affleck’s character C (this and Mara’s characters’ names are never spoken in the movie; the credits refer to Affleck’s character as C and Mara’s character M) is killed in a car wreck and spiritually returns to the home where he and his wife, M, lived. In his return, C is covered in a bed sheet – the last thing he will ever wear. As C watches M grieve over the loss of her husband and eventually move on with her life, C is stuck in the house and watches over time as various people inhabit the house he and his wife shared. As time passes, C makes a choice that enables him to experience time as an infinite loop, which changes the course of things for him spiritually.

For various reasons, a movie like A Ghost Story may frustrate viewers. The movie has little exposition and dialogue, shots last minutes on end, and it goes in stretches of being remotely silent. And let’s not forget about the ghosts themselves, which have a unique way of communicating while wearing what seemingly look like cheap Halloween costumes. The point of all these elements, which feel wholly original for an indie feature, is that they each play a role in the presentation of the movie’s themes. Each of the movie’s themes, which include love, grief, time, and the fragility of life itself, are all deeply affecting.

Although Casey Affleck gives an unconventional performance, it’s one that allows you to openly interpret every movement he makes underneath the bed sheet. With every outward reach or blank stare at another character through his two eye sockets, you can’t help but wonder if his character feels anger, emptiness, loneliness, or something else entirely. All of these movements–and the entire movie, for that matter–are shown through an aesthetically-shot, square format that feels intimately personal. (1:33:1 aspect ratio, though many millennials will probably say, “This looks like it was shot on an Instagram filter!”)

My only complaint with A Ghost Story is that some of the scenes in the movie (particularly the aforementioned pie scene in the first act) linger a little too long on a subject. But if you’re patient, you’ll appreciate this surreal, yet raw story with supernatural twist sprinkled on top. The movie really drives it home in its third act. Not only is it remarkable, but it features one of the best endings in a movie you’ll see all year. Beautifully minimalistic and poignant, A Ghost Story is a soul-stirring journey that is sure to leave you thinking about it long after you leave the theater.

A Ghost Story begins playing here in Nashville at the Belcourt Theatre this Friday, July 28. You can purchase your tickets here.