Director David Lowry made an impression back in 2013 when he released the indie hit Ain't Them Bodies Saints, and then delving into the mainstream with the live-action remake of Pete's Dragon last year, which proved to be the best of the live-action Disney remakes to date. Now, Lowry returns to his indie roots with A Ghost Story, which reunites Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, and is about the notions of loss, legacy and the longing for human connection and meaning. You have a normal mundane couple living within this house, and then suddenly the husband dies, comes back as a ghost (embodied by a white sheet with cut-out eyes), and witnesses how everything moves on without him, including his wife.
This film really plays more akin to a fantasy story more than anything else, which is its huge benefit as it never reaches beyond what is happening to the husband, the wife, and even the house itself, which is as much the main character as the two people that occupied it. This movie makes you question what you would do if something this tragic happened to you, and how you would cope being this invisible, disembodied entity who can do nothing except watch life pass you by, and that rationalization is scary to imagine and is perhaps more chilling than certain other horror movies out there.
This movie doesn't go overboard and forget what it is and what its intention is; this is a ghost story that is very light on scares but very heavy on thoughts and ideas. Really, the biggest scare is trying to put yourself in the position of this lone ghost who can't do anything but watch his wife grieve; he can't support her or talk to her, but just watch as she inevitably moves on and he becomes almost forgotten, and that's what makes it scary: it reminds you how terrifying death is. This is helped enormously by Casey Affleck's closed-off performance as he spends nearly 90% of this movie underneath a sheet, yet that helps convey both the tragedy and the subtle emotional nuances. Plus, Rooney Mara, too, gives a subtly heartbreaking turn as the grieving wife.
Overall, A Ghost Story feels like David Lowry attempting to create an experimental horror ghost story about loss and how death can be a very lonely place. This captures that brilliantly, and while many audiences might be turned off by the film's slow burn nature or by the fact that this is almost like a silent movie, this shows Lowry as being a real creative force as he's delivered a movie that is both unnerving and beautiful to watch.
A GHOST STORY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DAVID LOWERY / STARRING: CASEY AFFLECK, ROONEY MARA, MCCOLM CEPHAS JR., KENNEISHA THOMPSON / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 15TH