I was relieved when I realized ten minutes into David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” that it wasn’t a remake or ripoff of the Patrick Swayze classic “Ghost.” Wait. I knew that.
I’ll keep the plot synopsis short and sweet; the film is about a ghost that spends eternity observing various residents living in one house. It commits various horror movie tropes like open doors, knock over books, and tamper with lights. But why is it behaving this way? What is the ghost’s purpose?
“A Ghost Story” is an unforgettable cinematic experience. Lowery writes, directs, and produces the film with an extraordinary vision. He explores themes such as life, death, time, love, and attachment with great depth. His narrative and aesthetic choices make him an auteur to watch out for.
The ghost is a person wearing a bed sheet. This is an odd choice that risks being silly, but the eyeholes on the sheet make it expressive. Through its eyes, I can tell the ghost was sad, angry, and curious throughout its journey. The film is also shot on a small ratio of 1:33:1; Lowery confirmed he did this to make the viewer trapped in time. This results in some visceral and hunting moments.
Lowery also takes advantage of the small frame and long takes to draw out specific moments, both heartwarming and tragic. In one standout scene, we’re forced to watch a grieving M (Rooney Mara) stress eat an entire pie in a 5-minute unbroken shot until he vomits. This is one of many moments that is an emotional roller coaster as I felt curious, sad, and then finally nauseous.
The best part of “A Ghost Story” is it debunks the haunted house mythology. Lowery addresses that just because a spirit wreaks havoc in a house, it’s not trying to possess or terrorize a family. It can be angry, confused, and human. I can’t recommend “A Ghost Story” enough.