There’s a lot in ‘A Ghost Story’ that would be easy to laugh at. As you’d expect, it’s about a ghost, but not one that looks anything like the human it once was (a nameless man played by Casey Affleck), nor like any gauzy special effect. This ghost is a sheet with two eyeholes in it, like a trick-or-treating costume thrown together by a lazy parent. It stands silently in corners, doing mostly nothing. This is a film in which ‘mostly nothing’ is generally what’s happening on-screen.
Yet within its many silences is a sad, funny, sometimes frightening look at life, death and the fear of being forgotten. Director David Lowery (‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’, ‘Pete’s Dragon’), like his ghost, mostly just watches his characters. There are barely 10 minutes of dialogue, but he doesn’t need words to convey the ghost’s arrogant anger at the world moving on without him, or the sadness of a woman (Rooney Mara) struggling to fill her emptiness – in one memorable scene she tries to fill it with an entire pie, eaten in a single take.
A film so content to just let ideas stew rather than offer definite conclusions won’t be for everyone, but it’s worth giving it the chance to haunt you.