A Ghost Story, B-
Rated R, 92 minutes
"A Ghost Story" isn't your typical ghost story, nor is it even a typical movie. A well-acted yet unconventional look at life, death and the passage of time, it's coupled with some thought-provoking moments along with frustratingly slow, odd ones too.
Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost C (Oscar-winner Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife M (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state, he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life's ineffable questions and the enormity of existence.
An intriguing film if nothing else, "A Ghost Story" gets marks for originality, even if its outlook on life is rather depressing. The film is directed and written by David Lowery, who brought to life last year's whimsical "Pete's Dragon" remake and the dark 2013 crime drama "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," also starring Affleck and Mara. It's easy to see why Lowery has them here too, they seem a warm coupling, until Affleck's character dies 15 minutes in and he's under the a sheet the rest of the film.
From there, "A Ghost Story" turns interesting, as Affleck observes Mara as she goes on with life without him, coming and going, seeing various people, and in one scene that lasts an eternity, one where she eats nearly an entire pie. The last section is a little better as C observes more than just his wife M, but the rest of the world moving on, too. Here, the statements about the passage of time (in a blink, things can change drastically) are more effective.
Lowery is an intriguing director, though often heavy-handed, allowing his camera to linger for minutes on in on various mundane, often unnecessary things; while nice for the sake of purpose and focus, but impatience and distraction could easily set in, However, that may be Lowery's point here: we're often impatience with the passage of time, yet as time goes on, our memories of loved ones tend to fade.
A heady message for sure, and one that many mainstream audiences may not care for, especially if you're accustomed to a lot of action. It's an unusual observation on life, death and time, seemingly Terrence Malick-y in execution, though even Malick's efforts of late haven't lived up to his potential. Satisfying yet frustrating, "A Ghost Story" is not a horror film and it's not scary, just scary slow at times.