A Ghost Story (2017). 4/5 stars for this spooky, time-centred ghost story.

image still photo a ghost story film

Film review by Claire Durrant of A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck as a recently deceased man and Roony Mara as his grieving widow.


4 star rating very good lots to enjoy


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Casey Affleck plays a struggling musician who enjoys the history of the small home he lives in. Rooney Mara plays his wife who desperately wants to move towards the city. When Affleck dies in a car accident, his ghostly spirit remains and haunts the home he adored. There he must watch as time eventually soothes his grieving wife. Furthermore embarking on an existential journey through the present, the future and the past.

Review, by Claire Durrant

A24 are truly on a roll with the films they are distributing. While they do often find their name featured in mainstream pictures, take the Academy Award winning film Moonlight (2016) for instance, they are best suited for one of a kind, indie films.

These films not only have an odd sense of charm to them, but with regards to the advertising, (especially in their posters) they are always uniquely striking.

A previous film they put their name on, It Comes at Night (2017,) had a minimalistic yet curious poster of a dog barking at some unseen entity. A Ghost Story simply has a figure covered in a white sheet with black holes for eyes, in front of a starlight backdrop. The eccentric design draws attention.

As it was with It Comes at Night, those expecting a scary story will be initially disappointed with A Ghost Story. A Ghost Story is haunting but more than that it is hauntingly beautiful.

On paper the melancholy story of a deceased man dressed in a cheap Halloween ghost costume sounds ridiculous and should not work. Yet, this film has had such a powerful effect on me. I’m still trying to understand why.

The tagline of the film states that “it’s all about time”, which becomes an important motif to the story. Lowery plays with the concept of time, in his editing technique and also symbolically. The camera will stay on a moment, for at times an excruciating length. At times the pacing will also be incredibly slow.

There is an approximately eight minute scene of Mara’s character still in grief, eat an entire pie in real time. The camera angle never changes and there is no editing. Her sorrow is assertively and deeply felt. Other moments will have shots that are edited quickly to represent how quickly time passes for our ghoulish character compared to the living.

The message of the the film is conspicuous. It is bluntly illustrated in the scene with the partygoers. A guest comments about humanity’s desire to be remembered and loved, and how in the end it will be for nothing. Humans will eventually forget Beethoven’s music and the Mona Lisa. The world will eventually end and the universe will inevitably collapse.

The thesis that the time we have on Earth and how we spend it will become obsolete in the end, is nihilistic albeit profound and powerful.

Plot development and speech is kept scattered throughout and Lowery focuses more on silence and stunning imagery to express the emotions of his film. The shots of the cartoony ghostly figure juxtaposed with scenes of grief and love create memorable and beautiful images. The aspect ration of a box with curved edges also gives this film a personal touch.

I guess this film is just one that’s hard to talk about. It is in fact a film meant to be felt and experienced. A Ghost Story is moving, alluring and unforgettable. In fact I was silent for a while after the film had finished trying to contemplate not only what I had seen, but also what I was feeling.

If you can be patient and not be a philistine when it comes to artistic films, you will come away with a completely unique cinematic experience.

Who knew that a film with Casey Affleck covered in a white sheet for most of the running length would finally make me connect with the actor.

For more, see the official website.

Cast and Credits

Director: David Lowery. Sailor Bear/Zero Trans/Fat Productions/Ideaman Studios.

Producers: Adam Donaghey, Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston.
Writer: David Lowery.
Camera: Andrew Droz Palermo.
Music: Daniel Hart.
Sets: Jade Healy, Tom Walker.

Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara.


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