A Ghost Story is a haunting and enigmatic new love story directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints). Made in secret and on a micro-budget, the film tracks the bizarre journey of man recently killed in an accident (Casey Affleck), who returns to the house he shared with his wife (Rooney Mara) as a spectral presence cloaked in a white sheet, only to discover he has become unstuck in time.
This film is a captivating meditation on some of the most central elements of human life: love, loss, grief and the effects of time. Though we see little of the young couple before the man’s death, their relationship feels incredibly authentic. The dialogue throughout the film is minimal, and the marriage is instead constructed through a series of tiny, mostly silent moments that are both intensely intimate and beautiful. While very early in the film, the man’s death is tragic purely because his life seemed so real. The authenticity of the couple’s relationship is a credit to the highly realistic performances by Affleck and Mara, who manage to craft genuine, meaningful moments between the two characters with such limited screen time.
Perhaps the most impressive element of this film is Lowrey’s incredible manipulation of cinematic time. At first, when the man’s ghost returns to comfort his grieving wife, the film’s careful pace seems to suggest that we will share the ghost’s experience of watching her every move as she slowly begins to heal herself. Soon, however, this illusion is broken as the ghost is forced to sit passively as time, and everything with it, begins to slip away faster and faster. From this point on we barely know when or where to locate ourselves; it is at times unclear how many days, weeks, months or years have gone by. His wife now gone, the ghost witnesses the future of his old home playing out before him as new owners pass in and out, and time marches on.
The images across this film are truly stunning and successfully take on the role of conveying intense emotion, which might usually be afforded to dialogue. As he becomes increasingly separated from the life he once knew, the ghost takes a surreal cosmic journey through history and memory, resulting in incredible visuals made even more affecting when paired with Daniel Hart’s dark and stirring original soundtrack.
A Ghost Story is a bold, unique and unforgettable piece of cinema that confronts us with some of life’s most incomprehensible concepts, including the enormity of our own existence, mortality and the extent of our known universe. Much like the spectral being it follows, this surreal and beautiful film will haunt you long after you’ve walked out of the theatre.
Australian release date: July 27, 2017.