David Lowery’s 2013 film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints featured Casey Affleck playing an escaped prisoner trying to reunite with his wife, played by Rooney Mara. His 2017 film A Ghost Story has Casey Affleck once again trying to reunite with his wife Rooney Mara, but things won’t be so easy this time around.
In the latest film, they’re not separated by the justice system, but by their own disagreement. Rooney Mara’s character (credited only as “M”) wants to move out of their house in the suburbs and into the city. Casey Affleck (“C”) likes their house and wants to stay. M ultimately gets her way, but not before C dies in a car crash. Just after M leaves him in the morgue with his body covered up with a plain white sheet in the usual style, C gets up from his gurney, taking the sheet with him. His sheet gains a couple of eye holes to turn it into the timeless costume that makes an appearance every Halloween, and that’s C’s attire for the rest of the film.
We see M distraught, which is completely understandable. One long, uninterrupted take features her grief-eating a pie in a way that left me puzzled at why the Drafthouse didn’t offer it as a special menu item. But M pulls herself together and eventually moves on. C doesn’t. He stays in the house when a Hispanic family moves in, and when they move out. He’s there when it’s turned into a hipster/hippie party house. And more. He’s just lurking in the background, in his ridiculous white sheet, as time marches on without him.
This film is certainly not what I expected based on either the title or the poster image. It’s much more an art film than anything spooky or funny. It’s got moments that will make you uncomfortable, moments where you’re not sure how safe some of the living are, and even a couple of moments of light humor. Mara does an excellent job for the relatively small amount of time that she’s on screen. I won’t go quite as far when commenting on Affleck’s performance during the times that we see him, and I highly doubt that he’s the one standing motionless and completely covered up under the sheet for the vast majority of the film.
It’s way too self-indulgent that’s more interested in creating an atmosphere than holding up to any degree of scrutiny. You really shouldn’t dwell on the glaringly obvious problems with some parts of the story, and how utterly senseless other parts are. You’re supposed to marvel at the Instagrammy look, with its square aspect ratio and rounded corners. But I can’t deny that it often does look really good and that there are interesting ideas floating around in the sea of no logic. Ultimately, I’d say it’s worth seeing if you can appreciate it without thinking about it too much.