David Lowery’s supernatural movie “A GHOST STORY” unfolds almost entirely from the perspective of an apparition straight out of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” with a billowing white bed sheet with two holes cut into it for eyes. For some of horror movie fans who jump out of our own sheets watching movies like “The Conjuring” or “Poltergeist” you are not gonna get any “boo” scares here, no pun intended. Like the ground breaking movie “The Blair Witch Project” you are going to leave this movie either hating it or loving it. Perhaps what has drawn me to this movie is that as a grown man just turned 50, like a child I still mourn the death of my pet ferret Chinook. Perhaps because we are taught animals do not go to heaven only people and the feeling of loss and loneliness is something that haunts us all. What have I done with my life at 50? Will I see my pet Chinook in heaven? Will I see my father? My loved ones? Everyone and every animal I ever love, will I see them when I die? Will I be miss or forgotten? These are the questions we all ask ourselves in the private thoughts of our minds because we all have roles to play in society. The strong male that does not cry or mourn but at the end of the day, we are all human under the white sheet and afraid of the unknown.
There’s life in the dead darkness of those eye holes: black reflective pools on a pale expanse of linen, conveying more feeling than you might expect. The movie starts out very dry with some scenes dragging on. I found myself thinking to myself, boring, I get it the couple is snuggling, the woman is eating pie, the dead character is lying there and these scenes seem to drag on making me bored because let’s face it we are all waiting for the big scare that Hollywood blockbusters put out, the big twist, the monster that jumps at the lens of the camera but there were none. What gives? This is intentional as I continue to watch the movie realizing the director’s intentions. Time. Forever. Space. I get it as our ghostly character stares on watching observing watching the life he once had gone on without him trying to connect, trying to understand, almost like in a dream state.
Knowing there’s a person under there helps. Has Casey Affleck, the actor that is deceased and our main ghostly character, found a new way to make a blank sheet seem so expressive, to scrawl emotion across a blank sheet? You felt the remorse, the loneliness, the confusion by the ghost. We meet Affleck’s character as a man, alive but unnamed, composing sad-sack indie electronica in the cozy residential space he shares with his wife or maybe girlfriend, also unnamed and played by Rooney Mara as I remember her as the Nancy character from the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.
These main characters have barely taken shape when A Ghost Story makes its left turn into the unknown, beginning with a slow pan across suburbia at dawn, landing on the aftermath of a car crash that’s left Affleck’s bearded musician lifeless at the wheel. Minutes later, the dead man rises from the cold surface of a hospital slab, looking suddenly like a child’s scribbled conception of what goes bump in the night. Like a scene out of “The Ghost Whisper” the doorway, the light appears, giving the ghost the opportunity to cross over but instead the spirit is drawn back to his home, where he bears silent witness to the mourning process, caught in his beloved’s orbit like an invisible satellite. The years tick off, but the ghost stays planted, the environment changing around him, time passing as it does for the living—at an agonizing crawl at first, in the blink of an eye eventually. Occasionally, he makes the lights flicker or the china shatter. Mostly, he lingers.
The scenery and lighting of the ghost character are shot in a manner that seem very haunting to me. Seeing the child-like Halloween costume ghost interact observing seemed silly to me at first, then creepy, then very haunting, and then very sad. A movie that stir all these emotions is saying something because let’s face it, we all complain about remakes and Hollywood does not come up with any original matter, it takes this Sundance gem of film to restore my faith in film making. The musical score like the haunting character was very moving and I already bought the soundtrack. The movie left you feeling small in this universe, it made me very sad at my own grief and at the same time wanting to grasp onto to the “now” What is the message out of the movie? Perhaps, I need to be a little less harsh on myself, so I am not the next Beethoven but everything has a purpose. Perhaps this is the lesson we take from the movie, for me a small ferret named Chinook that came into my life, came into my life during the worst possible time. This was Chinook’s purpose I feel and he saved me as I saved him and he has been gone now for 5 years: I need to let go. We all need to let go in life with a deceased love one, parent, or our beloved pet. We need to let go in life to live and we also need to let go in death for we are all here on this big blue planet for a life time but in reality, let’s face it, we all here for a brief moment in time.