Photo credit: Bret Curry. Courtesy of A24.
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By David Keyworth
What’s it like to be a ghost that no one can see?
In writer-director David Lowery’s new film, it involves a lot of hanging around indoors, watching your ex-lover, a Spanish family and a man in dungarees at a party, who talks at length about the end of the universe.
A Ghost Story is set in modern day Texas. C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) live in a setting that is either idyllic ror just remote, depending on your point of view. Apart from the dawn chorus, and occasionally bumps in the night, nothing disturbs their love nest.
The idyll ends abruptly when C dies in a car crash. But he is not yet ready to rest in peace. He rises up from his morgue-bed and returns to the ranch-style house, wearing just a white sheet – looking like someone who has put minimal effort into their Halloween costume.
The tension from the first half of the film comes from expecting that someone will see him in the house and scream the walls down.
The ghost is mostly a voyeur and through his eyeholes we see M return to the empty house. In one of the most powerful scenes, Rooney Mara sits on the kitchen floor, eating a pie until she becomes sick with grief. It’s a great example of acting and directing which is utterly compelling even though ‘nothing happens’.
In any film which involves long periods without dialogue, the soundtrack plays a crucial role. Daniel Hart’s original score does not disappoint – it is ominous, lyrical and mournful.
In the last section, the film moves into time-travel territory. This produces some stunning cinematography but threatens to take us too far away from the emotional core. There are also some elements of the narrative which I didn’t quite get – for example, the ghost can hold objects but prefers to scratch at a wall with his fingernail.
In the end, though, we return to the domestic setting and the poignant meditation on the way that love and grief are inevitable bedfellows.
A Ghost Story is just over an hour and half long. It has a 12a certificate, although I’m glad I didn’t see it when I was 12-years-old as I think it would have resulted in a few sleepless nights. It is a ‘Scared Sheetless’ production.
David Keyworth is an MA Creative Writing student at Manchester Metropolitan University.