Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham
Director: David Lowery
Running Time: 92 mins
A Ghost Story is an American film about a man who becomes a ghost after dying in a car crash, and returns to his home to reconnect with his grieving wife.
Striking, slow, powerful and tedious, A Ghost Story is a stunning film filled with contrasts, but despite its often excessive self-indulgence, it’s a poignant, achingly emotional watch that blends deep, introspective human drama with inventive ideas throughout.
A blissfully simple premise that follows a man as he tries to connect with his wife after dying, the film is small and intimate in every sense of the words, featuring next to no dialogue throughout and a tiny cast that features only two major characters.
As a result of that simplicity, the film is powerfully quiet from beginning to end, something that plays a major role in its striking emotional depth. As we see the ghost stand by helplessly as his grieving wife struggles to come to terms with his death, an agonising sense of loss hits home in spectacular fashion.
And with barely any dialogue and Casey Affleck hidden under a bedsheet for most of the film, that agonising emotion allows you to reflect your own feelings and reflections onto the film, and to connect with its look at grief, love and the life cycle with real sympathy and understanding.
Continuing with its desperately heartbreaking drama throughout, A Ghost Story is a stunningly poignant and personal film in every regard, and its minimalistic style is integral to just that.
However, as striking and effective as that style is throughout, it also proves a barrier to making A Ghost Story a fully captivating watch. Because for every moment of pure, silent emotional power, there’s another moment of frustratingly long, drawn-out film that just doesn’t pack the punch it needs to.
The long, heartrending close-ups of a forlorn ghost aside, the film is often painfully self-indulgent in its minimalist style, with standout moments in that vein ranging from an inexplicably lengthy shot of Rooney Mara weeping silently on the floor to an infuriatingly dull and rambling discussion of the universe in what is effectively the film’s only dialogue scene.
All of that means that A Ghost Story’s most deeply powerful moments of emotion are regularly bookended by frustrating and seemingly endless moments of cinematic self-indulgence, working against the film immensely in its efforts to develop a consistent emotional beat throughout.
Saying all that, however, there’s no denying that A Ghost Story is really quite a special film. Unique, bold and achingly powerful, it’s an agonising and moving personal drama that ingeniously uses a minimalist style to create a maximum emotional effect. It may often prove overly self-indulgent in that style, working to the film’s detriment, but on the whole, it’s an audacious and unique film that works really well, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0 overall.