Let me start off by saying that A Ghost Story is my favorite movie of the year so far. I saw it months ago during the Chicago Critics Film Festival, and not a week has gone by since that I haven’t thought of it. Perhaps it’s because I lost someone close to me within the past year. Or perhaps it’s because its writer and director, David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon), manages to capture a vision very similar to the one I’ve always had in my head about what might happen after we die. Either way, this film put me through the emotional wringer — in a good way.
So, um, yeah . . . if you’re in the mood for a comedy or nonstop-action movie, this isn’t it. But I promise you that A Ghost Story is surprisingly funny in parts, not least of which is when we first meet the ghost from its title. He’s played by Casey Affleck, whose character “C” dies early in the film. After his partner “M” (Rooney Mara) identifies his body at the hospital and then covers him back up with a white sheet, we wait in suspense for a minute or so, watching C just lie there on the table alone after everyone has left. And then suddenly he sits upright, still covered in the white sheet, which now has two holes in it for eyes, just like the stereotypical cartoon ghost. Though the circumstances are sad, there’s still something inherently funny about seeing a dude in what looks like a shoddy Halloween costume roaming around. He also shares a few comical moments with another ghost.
But the majority of the movie revolves around both C and M trying to make peace with his death. We see C, invisible to the world and helpless as he watches M binge-eat on the kitchen floor and sob in the bedroom they once shared. He can do nothing but stand there and observe week after week as she slowly learns to move on without him.
However, after she does move on, something really cool happens. The movie switches gears and becomes less of a story about loss and grief and more of a meditation on something much bigger — life itself. What came before us, what might come after us, and how we might find closure in different and unexpected forms.
That Lowery even attempted to convey such deep thoughts through a movie is impressive, but the fact that he actually succeeds in delivering such an unforgettable vision is (I hope) Oscar-worthy. We’ll find out in March! In the meantime, I hope you love A Ghost Story as much as I did.