A Ghost Story
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck get ghosted in David Lowery's spellbinding exploration of the passage of time
Following his breakthrough feature in 2013, the (sorta) neo-Western Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, director David Lowery took an unexpected career turn in helming a – very good – remake of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon last year. His next move after that is somehow even stranger. A Ghost Story confirms him as one of the trickier rising star American filmmakers to get a definitive hold on: bar recurring collaborators, one may struggle to find much in common with the filmmaking of A Ghost Story, Ain't Them Bodies Saints and Pete’s Dragon.
A Ghost Story is definitely an actual ghost story (no misleading title here), but, while it’s haunting, it’s certainly not a horror film. Instead, as its rather perfect poster tagline posits, it’s all about time.
Casey Affleck (who was in Saints) plays a white-sheeted ghost (you’ll end up on board with the concept pretty quickly), who returns to his suburban home to keep an eye on and try to console his bereft wife (Rooney Mara, also of Saints), only to find that his spectral state, having turned down an entrance to an apparent afterlife, gets unstuck in time. As the woman he loves moves on, along with traces of the life he knew, he’s trapped in their home, forced through years of changes in inhabitants and eventually witness to the Texas land’s transformation in a near future.
And then things, not to spoil anything, get... cosmic. A Ghost Story is quite a hard film to get a full grasp on with just one viewing, but to give a taste of its aesthetic sensibilities, think a blend of ghost fiction with Under the Skin, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the patient works of directors Chantal Akerman and Apichatpong Weerasethakul; all shot in the intimate 1.37:1 aspect ratio favoured, of late, by Andrea Arnold. So, y'know, don’t come to it expecting Affleck and Mara to go crazy with a pottery wheel and a Righteous Brothers soundtrack.