Written and Directed by: David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
Runtime: 87 min
David Lowery tells the story of a recently deceased man (Casey Affleck) that returns as a white-sheeted ghost to his home. He is lost in time and he has to watch life go by as well as his wife's pain.
It is a journey through memory and history, confronting life's fundamental questions and reflecting on love and grief.
This is David Lowery's craft, period. His screenplay is incredibly emotional and the fantastic amount of visual storytelling elevate this film so damn much. I still find myself thinking about the story because it is so magnificently told, it is definitely the standout aspect of the movie.
His direction is a masterpiece worthy of several awards. There are so many excruciating long takes that build up the pain, the despair and the sadness that one feels when losing someone close. Scenes that take 10 seconds in a conventional film, go for minutes without end in A Ghost Story and they build up so enormously.
The realistic cinematography creates a heavy environment that works really well with the tone of the movie and the (lack of) soundtrack makes every scene even more powerful. The absolute silence in an empty house has such a profound and compelling meaning, but it never seems that the film is trying to be pretentious.
Going back to the writing, there is barely any dialogue ... I would say that only 15 minutes of the runtime are speaking scenes, while the rest of it is a huge number of one-take shots filled with amazing build-ups that culminate in a greatly emotional third act.
The story itself is depressingly amazing. I know, how can a story be amazing if it is depressing? Well, this movie is so well-crafted and the screenplay is so well-told that it makes me feel happy that I got the chance to watch this film. It is a brilliantly directed movie, even though its story is one of the saddest I have ever witnessed.
The film improves with each act, but the last one is clearly the best. Due to the huge amount of emotion stored during the previous hour-ish, the third act's climax is so astonishingly potent and heartfelt. The ending generates so many feelings that I stood still for a while, dealing with both the frustration and despair that the movie transmitted to me.
Rooney Mara steals the show, even though the main character is someone under a white sheet (if it is Casey Affleck the whole time or not, I don't know). There are so many long takes that she handles so perfectly, proving that she is a very capable actress. There is a scene that I will never forget and it just involves Rooney eating a pie ... As simple as that is, it is one of the most disturbing and sad moments I have seen these last few years.
Casey Affleck is ok. He barely has any screentime (I mean, showing his face) and he doesn't exactly stand up to Rooney Mara's level, but he works fine for the plot. The only major issue I have with the film is its pacing mixed with the story. There is a thin line between being deliberately slow and just plain boring ... Sometimes, Lowery crosses that line and the movie might become briefly boring for some people.
Also, I don't think this film has any replay value. Similarly to Manchester By The Sea, its story and tone are too depressing for someone to want to watch this film again or showing it to friends or family. It is a one-time only screening, at least for me.
All in all, A Ghost Story is David Lowery's masterpiece. His direction is unbelievably great, his screenplay has so much beautiful visual storytelling and his story is incredibly powerful and emotional. Rooney Mara has one of her best performances yet, while Casey Affleck is just fine. However, I think it is a one-time only cosmic journey that even though it is depressing and sad, it still leaves some very unusual feelings on everyone that goes through this life experience.