At first look, A Ghost Story is easy to write off because of its oddball concept, but writer-director David Lowery pulls it off and presents a stirring meditation on grief and loss. The film is a bit slow at the start with its long takes, but those sequences lay down the foundation for the potent emotional punches that come later. Lowery proves to be a storytelling master, conveying two perceptions of the passage of time with ease and even handling Spanish-spoken sequences without subtitles. When it comes to its themes, the film does get rather heavy-handed, as one character covers them in one monologue. Putting a sheet over an actor and essentially taking away his means of communicating is a risky endeavor, but Casey Affleck handily imparts helplessness and sorrow with the ghost’s stillness and slow, shuffling movements. Rooney Mara skillfully sustains her character’s emotions over an impressive period of time, in particular a single sequence where she almost eats an entire pie. Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palmero’s images adopt a square format reminiscent of 16mm home movie, lending the film a personal touch. Daniel Hart’s score is haunting and poignant, as is the song “I Get Overwhelmed” by Dark Rooms. This is a remarkable surprise and a great piece of filmmaking.
* Photo courtesy of A24