A Ghost Story

A GHOST STORY, drama, rated R, Vi­o­let Crown, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER - — Jeff Acker

M (Rooney Mara) and C (Casey Af­fleck) — we never learn their full names — live in a one-story house with a gravel drive­way in a place that’s wet and ver­dant. They spend time to­gether on their lap­tops — she looks at list­ings for prop­er­ties on Craigslist; he wears head­phones and tinkers with mu­sic, his brow fur­rowed. He is brawny and bearded; she is slen­der and elfin. They snug­gle, they ar­gue, and then they make up and snug­gle some more.

Then C dies. M goes to the morgue, where his body lies un­der a sheet. She takes a look, has a quiet mo­ment, and leaves. Af­ter a minute or two, C sits up. Still un­der the sheet, he walks out of the morgue. He will re­main en­sheeted for the rest of the movie, in ghostly form.

C re­turns to the house and watches silently as M grieves, car­ries on, and even­tu­ally moves out. Time speeds up and other oc­cu­pants of the house come and go. We learn the fate of the site af­ter the house is gone, and then we loop back to see the land be­fore it was built. Dur­ing one in­ter­val, a lively party takes place in the house, with a phi­los­o­phiz­ing rev­eler (played by Will Old­ham, also known as in­die-Amer­i­cana mu­sic dar­ling Bon­nie “Prince” Billy) ru­mi­nat­ing on the na­ture of mem­ory, mu­sic, and mor­tal­ity. In his di­a­logue, the movie’s themes — in case we didn’t pick up on them al­ready — are spelled out pretty di­rectly. “Who will re­mem­ber us af­ter we’re gone?” he asks.

Doubt­less, M re­mem­bers C; he def­i­nitely re­mem­bers her. His pin­ing for their life to­gether seems to be what binds him to the place where they lived. The space is ren­dered ef­fec­tively empty by her ab­sence, filled only with shad­ows and mem­o­ries. What­ever else you take from A Ghost Story, it will make you want to get out more of­ten.

Writer-di­rec­tor David Low­ery tells this story with lit­tle in the way of a sound­track. One ex­cep­tion is the lilt­ing song C plays for M on his lap­top, which reap­pears later and is at­trib­uted in the cred­its to a band called Dark Rooms. With a start-stop beat, string sec­tion, and falsetto vo­cals, it’s maudlin, hyper-dra­matic, and an­noy­ingly catchy.

Low­ery seems to be count­ing on the brief scenes with Af­fleck to fur­nish a con­nec­tion with the sheeted pro­tag­o­nist and what we imag­ine to be his post-life emo­tions, but the util­ity of this de­vice is lim­ited, and much of the movie feels like a slog to­ward res­o­lu­tion. How much can you re­ally con­nect with a char­ac­ter who could be played by a vol­ley­ball on a pole be­neath a sheet?

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A haunt­ing love: Rooney Mara and Casey Af­fleck

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