A Ghost Story (2017) holds up a haunted mirror to its audience.
Poignant, reflective and dreamily melancholic, “A Ghost Story” offers, at first glance, a simple story of a soul anchored in space but not time.
When a musician (Casey Affleck) is killed in a car accident, he returns to the home he shared with his wife (Rooney Mara) as a ghost and must watch as time – and the world – moves on around him.
With “A Ghost Story”, writer and Director David Lowery delivers a contemplative and narratively fungible work to the big screen, powered by a remarkable performance by a lead actor who spends most of the movie wearing a white sheet. Light on dialogue, it’s in quiet symbolism and intricate physicality that “A Ghost Story” finds its power, from the dark torment of Mara’s internalised grief to Affleck’s growing sense of frustration at his apparent purgatorial house arrest.
Although Affleck’s considered and restrained movements provide the ghost with a surprising amount of emotion, credit must go to costume designer Annell Brodeur for creating such a deceptively simple aesthetic, retaining the almost cartoony sheet-with-two-eye-holes motif but expertly tailoring and layering the fabric into a flowing, physical yet spectral cloak. As events move on around him and he endures the voyage through the life of his house, the film reveals a beautifully elliptical approach to its storytelling.
There’s much that’s left to the viewer’s imagination and empathy to enrich the narrative, making “A Ghost Story” something of a haunted mirror for the viewer. There’s an ambiguity in the performances for you to colour the experiences from your own perspective. Were the couple happy before the accident ended their time together? What ultimately will release the ghost from his haunting? There are no obvious answers thanks to a deliberate and delicious ambiguity in both structure and timeline and you’ll use your own emotional palette to shade the empty spaces.