A Ghost Story
Directed by: David Lowery
Starring: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck
Run Time: 1h 32min
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
3 1/2 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
At the beginning of A Ghost Story, there’s a quote from a short story by Virginia Woolf. This short story is called Haunted House. The quote is, ‘Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting.’ The short is about two ghost couples living in the same house. This is an important read before you see the film. It’ll give you much more insight into the tone and significance of a story like this than the character in the film called the Prognosticator (Will Oldham) did halfway through the narrative as he blathered on about the meaning of all things. Honestly, had this character not existed to be so irritatingly philosophical, I’d be giving this an even higher rating.
If you read the text, it goes on to say that the couples are looking for a treasure. In its own way, the movie does this, too. The treasure is in the form of a note left behind. The ghost is the spirit of C (Casey Affleck). He and M (Rooney Mara) rented this old home and are at a point where they are contemplating moving out. C feels attached to the home because, for one thing, he wrote songs inside of it. M is the one who wants to move.
Soon after, he dies in a head on collision just outside of the house. When his body awaits what the coroner is going to do to it he rises and, complete with sheet and holes in the eyes to see through, he walks slowly and methodically down the halls of the hospital. During his stroll, a bright doorway appears out of nowhere. Though he is to go through it, he chooses not to; instead, he walks back home.
The movie takes you on a very deep and meaningful journey with a tortured soul unable to let go of whatever it is he gets from the house or the love so pure within it that he cannot leave it behind. Again, in the short story, there’s a line that reads, “‘Safe, safe, safe,’ the pulse of the house beat gladly. ‘The Treasure yours.’” Knowing all of this going in will help you understand the direction C is going in and why.
It’s so heartbreaking watching him stare helplessly at his wife as she begins to drown in her own sadness. She attempts to satisfy the emptiness with anything she can. She devours an entire pie only to get sick as she finds it hard to believe her beloved is gone and will never share one, or anything, with her again. She eats yet she tastes nothing. Still, C doesn’t move. Time goes by and, as before, he stays. He is unwilling or perhaps unable to depart. He’s more of a guardian at this point.
In a peculiar shot, he looks out the window and he discovers that in the home next door there’s a flowered sheet with two eye holes in it… it’s staring back at him. In an incredibly bizarre act, they converse slightly through some sort of telepathy. With it, the music darkens and the mood follows suit.
Eventually, enough time has passed on that M dates someone and brings him home. Soon, she packs and leaves the dwelling which devastates C. From the picture window in the front of the house, he watches M drive away. If you’re a very sensitive soul like I am, this bit with its swelling music will have a tear escape your eye and trickle down your cheek. This and many subsequent abstract scenes are quite long, however, the meaning behind that and reason for it is so pure and authentic. C longs for something and the unique way director David Lowery involves you in his mourning is mystifying. Time moves on, decades pass, C’s sheet gets filthy but still, he searches for that one thing he can’t have… his Treasure?
I really liked this film. I do have to warn that it’s not for everyone. Some would argue it should have been a short film but the time it may take some to find the compassion within them and pull it out for this poor lost Specter could vary. This is very well done and the character of C is handled delicately. By the time I left, I was as attached to C as he was to our world. The pain, with very little dialogue, is made very clear and the loneliness this spirit endures is palpable. The ending is curious and like C clinging to whatever it is that has its grip on him, I now can’t get this movie out of my head. We are all C. We all leave something behind and maybe we don’t necessarily want to do that. Let’s see if we, ourselves, can stay.