David Lowery’s hard-to-classify A Ghost Story was made in secret in Irving, Texas, supposedly with the profits earned from his remake of Pete’s Dragon last year. While the title might suggest a supernatural chiller like The Conjuring or the original The Haunting, this is, instead, all about a ghost’s perspective, and the mind-boggling endlessness of eternity.
A young couple, known only as C and M (Lowery colleagues Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara), is shown happily living in a suburban home. There are intimate, vaguely spooky and rather puzzling scenes that lead you to think we’re in line for something Poltergeist-ish.
However, this takes a turn when C dies and then rises in the hospital, complete with the sheet that covered his corpse, as a pleasingly archetypal ghost complete with cut-out eyes so that he can witness time moving on for years and years – and years. After maybe 15 or 20 minutes of hushed talking between the protagonists, Lowery rather daringly opts for almost no real spoken dialogue (or exposition) at all, as C’s ghost returns to the house and watches M cry and work at getting her life back together in striking montages.
These are moving and melancholy, but the director has more existential tricks up his sleeve. Soon the ghost is seen (it seems) to be moving forward to look on helplessly as M moves out. Others move in and we’re suddenly at some far future point, before he (and we) travels back to where it all began for some final cosmic conundrums.
In a distinctly lower key but certainly in the same ontological vein as Terrence Malick’s deeply philosophical (and also sometimes head-scratchingly baffling) The Tree of Life, Lowery’s film sometimes overdoes it (we could have done without four or five minutes of watching a grief-stricken M binging on pie) but, nevertheless, remains a meditative and even spiritual experience.
Rated M. A Ghost Story is in cinemas now