David Lowery's A Ghost Story is a different sort of haunting, a quiet reverie of never letting go of people, places, anything. Some viewers may think it silly, others profound, but there's no other movie quite like it.
Oscar winner Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a nameless couple in Texas whose fragile marriage is detailed by long silences, or their expressions when silence is broken. They're undecided about whether to stay in their home or move elsewhere. Before any decision, the husband is killed in a car accident; his wife identifies him at the morgue.
She walks away, leaving his body under a sheet on a table. Then the shrouded body sits up, looks around and begins a vigil that Lowery spins decades into the future, a grieving sentinel in a Halloween beginner's costume. He returns to the home he didn't want to leave and watches life left behind as it goes on.
Lowery's condensing of time is a key element of A Ghost Story's emotional punch, a narrative drift through the wife's grief and moving on, later occupants of their home and its eventual fate. Affleck (or whoever's under that sheet) is a mostly immobile figure placed in evocative corners of the screen, creating a new strain of melancholy.
Not that Lowery doesn't show a sense of humor about this. That morgue introduction is an open invitation to laugh. Same goes for a scene in which Mara's character consumes an entire pie, alone sitting on her kitchen floor literally eating her feelings. As her gorging continues, an impulse to laugh is stifled by grief.
In another scene, Affleck's ghost sees a similar bed sheet spirit through a window next door. They wave and communicate in subtitles, an amusing notion until the other ghost says it's waiting. "For what?" Affleck asks. "I can't remember," the neighbor replies, like that's a fate worse than death.
A Ghost Story is a procession of such quiet moments, little intimacies that Lowery makes relatable. Some passages test patience; a fatalist soliloquy by a future home guest (Will Oldham) runs long and pointless. But this deceptively simple movie moved me. Lowery turns a bump in the night into a lump in your throat.
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.