A Ghost Story


Writer/Director Daniel Lowery

A profoundly quiet film whose power comes from sitting in that silence and contemplating the essence of human connection and what is meant to last. Taking what could have ended up being the jokey premise of a sheet over the head kid’s halloween costume, Mr. Lowery doesn’t let this central feature become even close to a cheap device. He establishes the fact of it early on and then invests in it in such a forceful and grounded way that we can’t help but be drawn into the mystery of what we are seeing, and open ourselves to the deeper questions the film contemplates.

At first, I was jarred by the monologue scene, probably because it came after so much silence.  But slowly I grew to appreciate the forthrightness of its central message, and really the verbal statement of Lowery’s fascination: the struggle to accept the temporary nature of everything – our relationships, lives, accomplishments, the world and all of existence itself – while still being willing to embrace life right in front of us and live as fully as we can despite the futility. And perhaps the only transcendent element is love and God, which is left as a matter of faith.

Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck are the couple around which this film centers, and their fine work together echos the chemistry they have shown before in other Lowery films, especially Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. The cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo anchors the emotional tone, which is further supported by the eerie score by Daniel Hart, and all the crafts are well represented in Lowery’s family-like crew. I was so warmly surprised by this film and its quiet power. It is a Must See.

Relatable Reviews

  • A.O. Scott in the NY Times give it the highest marks. “A Ghost Story” works so well because it shouldn’t work at all. Starting with a quote from Virginia Woolf, it wears its literary pedigree on its sleeve, yet it manages to feel fresh and inventive rather than stale or studied. It’s like an old tale by Saki or Henry James read for the first time: hair-raising and clever, a tour de force of sensation and a triumph of craft.”
  • Matt Zoller Seitz in RogerEbert.com also rated it highest. “People either seem to love “A Ghost Story” or hate it, with no in-between. It got mostly very positive notices during festival screenings, but on the eve of its commercial release I’ve found myself arguing with colleagues who think it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes and find it too precious, too sentimental, too much of a one-joke movie, or not enough of one thing or another thing. I loved everything about it, including the scenes I wasn’t sure how to take. I recommend seeing it in a theater because it’s a movie that has as much to say about our perception of time and permanence as it does about love and death. Much of the impact that it has, positive or negative, comes from having to sit there and watch it without interruptions and think about what it’s showing you, and how.”