A Ghost Story is the kind of intellectual garbage a friend takes you to and insists it’s capital I Important, where you spend the whole movie desperately thinking about escaping to the bathroom so you’ll have something to do, and then stand out front of the theater nodding along while they talk about how it just nailed love y’know.
A Ghost Story is a movie, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, where the two play a married couple. Casey is a musician and Rooney is trying to find a new home. One day Casey dies and then rises as a sheet ghost. Then he just lurks in frame for the next hour.
The movie starts with a Virginia Woolf quote so that you know that it’s serious. It’s a movie that’s very aware of its seriousness, of its important qualities. A woman takes the trash out. The camera pans slightly to follow her to the end of the drive, then pans back as she re-enters the house. It holds for a solid minute. A woman sits on the floor eating pie. The whole pie. She leaves the shot to vomit. This shot takes easily three minutes, profile, of Rooney Mara eating a whole pie while a ghost stands completely still in the background. The movie is made up of shots like these, moments that make it seem like the film was made by an Instagram photographer, carefully lining up shots but not understanding the language of cuts or movement. Instead it says, here’s a good angle. Look at the lines of Rooney Mara’s back as she stands still in the open doorway. Look at this ghost looking sad. Look at this body lying on a table.
In the middle of the movie, there’s this moment where a dude starts talking about how everything is going to be dust man, so what’s the fucking point. It’s every drunken dudes conversation at 4 AM at a house party where you’re desperately trying to leave. It feels like it’s hinting at the idea of how you die twice, once when your body perishes and the second time when your name is spoken for the last time. Instead it seems to be about how everything will die. That’s the most spoken dialogue in the entire movie.
You may be shocked to learn that this movie is only 87 minutes long. I am. I just looked it up and I’m floored that this movie is only 87 minutes long. It felt like four hours. It felt like I had fallen into a nightmare state right around the moment where Casey Affleck watches his own ghost watch Rooney Mara as she leaves the house. I imagined a moment where I watch fourteen ghosts watch each other in complete silence as Rooney Mara stands in silence looking out of a window as it rains.
There seems to be a movement to view this movie as good because it is opaque, good because it tries to say something. This feels like the kind of movie I would’ve said I liked in high school because I confused understanding something for enjoyment. It tries to gain significance by meaning something, but it doesn’t have anything to say. The ghost stands in a bedroom. A living room. A kitchen. Fine art photography that tried this same image, a ghost standing motionless in lived space, would be called trite. Every moment Rooney Mara does something, with a ghost standing motionless in the background feels like the ghost is holding a giant neon sign saying “get it I’m a physical manifestation of grief.” But the movie never earns its supposedly deep conversation about death. It’s not clear that our couple ever loved each other, their chemistry so empty that the movies attempt at establishing a love connection is to have the two performers lay in a bed staring at each other for what feels like three minutes but was probably only one. It’s not art, it’s just slow, and tricking you into thinking it’s important because it holds a shot for too long on an ghost framed in a window as it talks to another ghost in ghost-y sign language.
A Ghost Story is basically a long sigh, held while you wait for 87 minutes to pass, as you watch a movie that is inexplicably shot in a rounded square in long held, deep moments that pass as a person moves from one room to another in complete silence.