A woman devours an entire pie in a five-minute sequence that is divided by only a single cut.
A deceased man lies on a hospital bed, a white sheet covering his corpse. The shot lingers for thirty seconds, the camera static and the frame unchanging, until the body sits up, the sheet still draped over his figure. He turns his head. Where his eyes would be are two black ellipses, giving the white sheet a face. The ghost stands up and leaves the hospital. None of the staff notices.
Such sequences characterize this film better than a mere synopsis. Most films start in one place, move forward, and end somewhere else. A Ghost Story begins with a single event and spirals outward, revisiting itself and building new layers. Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck give mostly non-verbal performances as the respective leads, a married couple living in rural Texas. The central event occurs when the husband dies in a car accident just down the road from their home. After the incident in the hospital, he revisits his bereft wife as the white-sheeted ghost, always remaining at their house, even after the wife moves away and a series of renters take her place. In short, it is a film about love, grief, the passage of time, and the human attachment to place.
There is an abiding sense of metaphysical strangeness in A Ghost Story, but it never becomes pretentious or grandstanding. On the contrary, the film is so affecting because of its attention to the details of grief, like the incident with the pie. To me, the saddest aspect of that scene, and the saddest aspect of the film at large, is the fact that the ghost stands motionless in the background, reduced from husband to observer. I cried because of the ghost’s grief, not the wife’s.
A Ghost Story is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming on most major platforms.
Chandler Ryd is a senior studying English.