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FILM REVIEW: "A Ghost Story" is bewitching, original tale of life and death

The spirit of Casey Affleck's character, C, in "A Ghost Story".
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Rusty's Score
5 Rustys

It’s the job of a film critic to condense a cinematic experience into a readable context, a couple paragraphs highlighting the basic plot and themes that also sums up the overall quality. It’s not a hard job, and something I’ve done countless times before with all manner of films.

But I’ll be honest, I’m at a loss of words for how to even begin approaching a film like A Ghost Story. Having originally debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year before being picked up by A24, the David Lowery-helmed drama is an entirely singular experience to behold.

It’s gained a reputation in the months leading up to its release as “that movie where Casey Affleck wears a white sheet.” Which isn’t entirely untrue, if not a little unfair to what the film is ultimately about and represents in its entirety. 

At first, A Ghost Story is the story of a man, C (Affleck), and his wife, M (Rooney Mara), as they settle into a tranquil existence in their suburban neighborhood. But after Affleck’s character dies in a horrific car accident right outside his home, A Ghost Story turns into an exploration of the things we leave behind from our loved ones to our individual legacies. 

And yes, Casey Affleck wears a white sheet with two holes cut out for eyes as the titular ghost. After C passes away, he returns to his suburban home to reunite with his wife but finds that in this form of the afterlife, he’s unstuck in time and forced to watch as life goes on right before his eyes. 

A Ghost Story administers a special form of heartache as C watches M grieve and move on without him while families come and go in the suburban residence he used to call home. As the film goes the on, plot becomes irrelevant as C embarks on a cosmic voyage through time and space. Without uttering a single word once he’s under the sheet, C acts as a catalyst for confronting questions we always think about the afterlife but never focus on out of fear of the unknown.

And that’s exactly what makes the film as powerful as it is. It’s the way A Ghost Story deftly approaches questions about the immensity of existence and an individual’s place in the world that makes it such an ideal example of fearless filmmaking. 

There’s so many reasons why a film like A Ghost Story shouldn’t work. There are countless examples of films whose philosophical and intellectual reach exceeds their grasp. And admittedly there are a few instances where you can’t help but giggle at the sight of Affleck skulking around in a white sheet or Rooney Mara demolishing an entire pie in one sitting for five minutes (seriously). 

But it says a lot about Lowery’s commitment to his vision that the film never feels half-assed. He commits fully to the aesthetic goals of A Ghost Story, never backing away from a scene too bizarre or an idea too complex. While that might sound intimidating for audiences who like their films clean and concise, A Ghost Story is the ultimate reward for those who want to push themselves out of their cinematic comfort zones. 

A Ghost Story isn’t for everyone, and even those who enjoy it may not completely understand what they just saw. Hell, I saw it four days ago and I’m still trying to piece it all together. But once you let the world Lowery creates wash over you and settle in for a mind-bending journey through time and memory, A Ghost Story reveals itself as an esoteric masterpiece. 

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About the Author

Keaton Bell

Born in Minnesota but raised in Oklahoma, Keaton is a senior at the University of Oklahoma...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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