On paper, and even in reality, A Ghost Story should not work. 90 minutes of Terrence Malick-esque meditation on death featuring Oscar-winner Casey Affleck in a sheet and a scene where Rooney Mara spends over five minutes silently eating an entire pie. It is the sort of thing that will alienate a lot of viewers. It certainly did in the screening I was in.
However, just as there are some people unwilling to believe in life after death, for those who are able to open up their minds to the possibility of something other than exists upon this mortal coil, A Ghost Story offers one of the most beautiful, moving and haunting (pun intended) films of the year.
Shot in 1:33 Academy ratio, writer-director David Lowry takes a look at the effect death has on a couple played by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck (the later whom suddenly passes away), leaving Mara to grieve as Affleck returns to their shared abode in a plain white sheet that initially draws comparisons to Michael Myers in Halloween and E.T.'s Halloween costume in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.
Yet Affleck is able to bring so much (after) life to the sheet and you can feel, just from his body language, how it is feeling at any time.
For a film called A Ghost Story, there are surprisingly few horror movie tropes. At no point (well nearly none) does the ghost appear out of nowhere signalled by a sudden crash of a piano.
That is because interestingly the focus of the film is from the perspective of the ghost rather than the loved ones, with the transition coming during the most talked about cinema scene involving pie since American Pie... Or The Help!
The aforementioned scene has proved too much for many to stomach (the character included) as Rooney Mara attempts to fill the hole left behind by eating an entire pie from start to finish. The scene last over five minutes and initially may seem slightly on the absurd side but as it went on I found it oddly compelling and when a large chunk of the pie crust fell on the floor I became obsessed with knowing if she would pick it up and eat it.
Just like the leftover crumb, "it is always harder for the one left behind" and in this respect that applies to the ghost who must witness his former partner move on from him; first with another lover and then moving out of the house, leaving him to wander the rooms waiting to complete his unfinished business which is linked to a secret note hidden by Mara's character and destined to become a Macguffin as hotly debated as what Bill Murray whispers as at the end of Lost In Translation.
The ghost is certainly unlikely to find himself in high spirits as he contends with the greatest enemy to us all. Not loss but time. Time catches up with us all. Forced to spend an eternity in that spot, he witnesses other people come and go in the house and developing his powers to influence the lighting and objects within his domain in an almost impotent rage. Grief can outlast even bricks and mortar as the house decays around him but time eventually can heal all wounds and offer a second chance, which is where Lowry's story begins to converge on similar themes to Nolan's Interstellar.
So just as the ghost is emotionally tied to the house he shared with his love, A Ghost Story will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.