It’s not uncommon for filmmakers to reunite with actors they have worked with previously, which is exactly what writer and director David Lowery has done in reconnecting Rooney Mara with Casey Affleck on-screen. Their past collaboration was a Western romance, and the latest piece is something not only very different from that, but unlike anything you’ll see all year. Indie drama A Ghost Story follows lovers credited only as C (Affleck) and M (Mara) and their suburban married life. After tragedy strikes and C is killed in a car accident, he returns home as a white-sheeted ghostly presence to watch over his wife as she struggles to cope with the enormity of her loss.
It has been reported that an existential crisis led Lowery to this project, and this is evident in the weighty themes of love and legacy that it explores. Captured in an unusual but neat 4:3 aspect ratio, the precise mise-en-scène and careful shot composition work to present the fantastical story through a tunnel vision of mystique and intrigue. With a minimal script, the film cleverly lets the powerful imagery and eerie male gaze do the legwork, with long lingering takes complimenting the creepiness of the subject matter. As well as the haunting elements, there is sense of beauty which counteracts with the sadness of it all, breaking into the forefront more prominently in the final act.
Mara and Affleck portray lost souls in the present and afterlife respectively, and as the camera stalks their wandering figures, their performances are fascinating to watch. The screenplay is incredibly light on dialogue, so there’s a reliance on subtle expression which Mara in particular carries off impeccably. There’s a much publicised stand-out sequence where she turns to comfort eating, devouring an entire pie in one sitting, quietly sobbing in between each mournful bite. It is one of the strangest scenes I’ve seen in a while, but it’s oddly mesmerising in it’s simple but studied execution.
Aside from the aforementioned pie, David Lowery serves up a surreal slice of paranormal absurdity with A Ghost Story, finding long-lasting intimacy in a film that is utterly and eternally universal. The lonely protagonist is trapped by space but not time, creating thought-provoking cinema that intelligently highlights both the significance and insignificance of the marks we leave on the world in our wake.