Star Rating:

A Ghost Story

Director: David Lowery

Release Date: Friday 11th August 2017

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 97 minutes

Affleck and Mara are a couple who have just moved into a one bed rural Texan home and there are creepy things a-happening in the middle of the night. Just as there are hints of division in the relationship Affleck dies in a car crash… but he comes back as a ghost, complete with white bed sheet, to watch over Mara and follow her as she comes to terms with her grief…

While there has been stories from the ghost's point of view in the past - Ghost and Beetlejuice (and some others that cannot be named for fear of spoilers) come to mind - but A Ghost Story is neither a romance or a thriller or a comedy. Like Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, this drama takes itself very seriously indeed and tries to understand the grieving process and time. Rather than a straightforward narrative, this is a film about moments, which director David Lowrey dips in and out of at random.

Some moments are stretched beyond breaking point though. One extremely long static shot that would even impress Béla Tarr has a grieving Mara plonk herself down by the kitchen sink and work her way through a pie while Affleck's ghost impassively watches. Scenes like this slow the story, that wasn’t breaking any speed limits to begin with, to a crawl.

But Lowrey sees things through. The silent and almost motionless Affleck is shrouded in that bed sheet for the vast majority of the running time (he is granted a few flashbacks later) and yet the audience is still somehow privy to his thought process. Sometimes we can 'feel' him struggle to understand what is happening, how he comprehends the passage of time (seconds for the audience is months, years, centuries for the ghost). Other times we can feel his frustration and anger, lashing out at the Hispanic family that moves in. This is the film's great achievement – its ability to make one feel for the hero when we can't see or hear him. The loneliness he is forced to endure – the sheer crushing sadness of it all – is palpable throughout.

What snaps one out of the mood the Ain't Them Bodies Saints director strived so hard to instil is that we can see Lowrey's decision making at play. He must have pondered a great deal over the bed sheet, complete with black circles with the eyes are supposed to be, and Affleck's ghost communicating telepathically with a ghost next door. A party scene has Affleck observe Will Oldham pontificate the meaning of life as he sees it – a noisy and dialogue-driven moment in an otherwise quiet film. The bed sheet and the neighbour ghost veer close to absurdity and threaten to undermine the serious atmosphere, while the Will Oldham speech sticks out like a sore thumb and shows the writer's hand at work.