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A Ghost Story

David Lowery, 2017

After a man dies in a car accident, his ghost returns to his home and observes how his partner deals with her grief.

The simple logline and even simpler title really do not speak to the power of A Ghost Story, which certainly goes far beyond what I expected. For its first third, it plays out more or less how I expected - it sets up an unnamed couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) living together in a small house before having Affleck die suddenly in a car crash within the first few minutes. He then becomes a ghost that resembles a simple bedsheet-with-eyeholes ghost costume and makes his way back to his house where he watches Mara as she continues to live without him. That's about as much of the plot as I'm willing to expound upon at this point because this really is better off without too much forewarning. Needless to say, it certainly proves to be about more than just Affleck's ghost hovering over Mara, though it definitely takes its time in focusing on that (with the film already gaining some notoriety for a protracted scene in which Mara spends several uninterrupted minutes eating a pie while the ghost stands in the background). The film's got a lean running time that clocks in at just under 90 minutes, but it will make you feel every second of the first 30 minutes or so of this barely-fantastic dourness.

However, there's something to be said for how A Ghost Story gathers some serious steam in its back half in some ways that are...quite surprising, to say the least. This is very much true of the film's emphasis on visual storytelling that knows how to make the most of static shots of a guy in a bedsheet standing in the middle of a room, if only because of the editing. This is definitely a film where you notice the editing in the best ways as it demonstrates a ghost's perception of the world around them in ways that are great and (more often) small but never without some measure of devastation. It can feel like it's laying its existentialist woes on a little thick at times (such as through a rambling monologue that stands out in this mostly laconic film for both good and bad reasons), but there's very little on display that feels truly unnecessary. Though I can't shake the feeling that this ground has been covered better in other films (I could name the filmmaker whose work this most reminded me of but even that would feel a little too close to spoiling it for my liking), I can't say that I felt disappointed by the experience. It may be a film of two halves, but the emotional turbulence that fuels the second half is definitely strong enough to make up for any sense of sluggishness that its first half may contain. You'll get sad and think about death and stuff, but at least it'll be in a way that feels worth it.