Casey Affleck Haunts Rooney Mara in Art House Film ‘A Ghost Story’

Just months after his Oscar win for “Manchester by the Sea,” Casey Affleck stars in another film that deals with grief, but this time from the other side.  In “A Ghost Story,” Affleck plays a man known only as C, who is first introduced living with his wife, M (Rooney Mara). The film begins almost like a found footage movie minus the grainy video, with C and M being disturbed in their sleep by a loud thud in the living room. This is followed by a quiet and tender scene of the couple attempting to fall back asleep in each other’s arms.

The rest of the film, which is told in a non-linear narrative, leads back to what caused this thud. Although they are by all appearances very much in love, there is tension between C and M, as he wants to stay in their house, which is full of history, while she wants to move somewhere more populated. Everything changes when C is killed in a car accident. At the morgue, M, who is understandably devastated, looks over her husband’s body. She covers him with a sheet and leaves, and after a few moments he rises, still covered by the linen, and ends up back at his house.

For the rest of the film Affleck is covered in the white sheet, which now has eyeholes and resembles a child’s Halloween costume, as he waits for the next part of his journey — whatever that might be.

Ghost C first watches over M as she grieves. In one memorable scene, M eats almost a whole pie on the kitchen floor before getting sick. These scenes, like most of the film, have a voyeuristic quality as C silently observes. After an unspecified amount of time passes, it is revealed that C is capable of more than just silently watching. After M arrives home late one night with a lover, he expresses his anger by knocking over some books.

Eventually, M moves away, but not before hiding a note inside a paint chip in the wall. C spends the following years waiting for her to return, intermittently disturbing successive tenants in the house, which include a Hispanic mother and her two young children, and, later, some hipsters. The only other being who can see him is a fellow ghost (singer Kesha in a surprisingly low-key role for a pop star, draped in a floral sheet) who is similarly waiting for someone to come back. The two are able to communicate using minimal sign language, and their few scenes together bring much humor and warmth to the film.

A bulldozer eventually comes through to take down the house, and C spends the remainder of the film traveling back and forth through time. Many people wonder about the history of the home and what will become of the world surrounding after they and everyone they know are six feet under, but C gets to see for himself firsthand as he travels through time.

“A Ghost Story” is far from a traditional ghost film. Because it is told from the spirit’s POV, the scenes of people being “haunted” don’t have that same spooky feel found in more traditional films about hauntings. Rather, it explores the human existence and how we’re all just a small part of a much bigger picture. With long stretches of no dialogue, the film feels rather slow and longer than its 92 minutes. However, true film lovers will appreciate the beautiful cinematography done by Andrew Droz Palermo, himself a filmmaker, who worked alongside director David Lowery for this one. While not the most enthralling film out right now, “A Ghost Story” will leave a lot of viewers thinking profoundly about life, death and time.

A Ghost Story” opens July 7 in select theaters.