I WALKED INTO David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” expecting a ghost story. Actually it is, but it’s unlike Henry James’ “The Haunting of Hell House” or Richard Matheson’s “Hell House.”

Lowery’s story, enhanced by Andrew Droz Palermo’s amazing cinematography, is unlike any you’ve ever read or seen. I have many reservations about this film, but I will give it this, it is an original.

There on the publicity poster is the ghost. It’s Casey Affleck, dressed in a white sheet, so that he looks like the ghosts you were raised to believe in — like a figure in a white sheet, like someone going to a Halloween party.

The story is simple, all the reviews lay it out the same way:

C (Oscar winner Casey Affleck) is a young musician who lives in a tiny house with M (Rooney Mara, Oscar nominee), his wife, somewhere in Texas.

Get a good look at Casey. This is the last time you’re going to see him because he shortly becomes a walking percale.


M is a quiet wife, a blank page, content to watch C wearing earphones, and plinking on his piano.

One day, C dies in an auto accident. M identifies the body and goes home. But back in the hospital morgue, C stirs. He sits up, covered by the sheet. This IS going to be a ghost story.

C walks the halls of the hospital without anyone noticing him. He is a ghost, but now with eye holes in the sheet.

Then C walks into the night and finds his way home, where his wife is eating a blueberry pie. Yes, as he watches, M sits on the floor and for five, maybe 10 long minutes, she jams down this pie, and then goes into the toilet and throws up.

This is a woman who is grieving by choking on an entire pie. When did you last see grief expressed like that? Okay, I stayed to watch.

Sometimes it makes you want to giggle, roll your eyes and walk out.


That’s “A Ghost Story.” But still I stayed to ponder, to want to know, is there something important going on here? Is there? I still don’t know.

After a time — for us minutes, but probably weeks for M, maybe months — she packs up and leaves. But before she does she writes a small note, slips it into a door crack and paints over it. Don’t forget the note.

Time moves on. C, unable to leave, stays on. A family of Latinos moves in and out. A small boy seems to see C. What does that mean? A band of partiers arrive, talk a lot, and then disappear.

A flash of time and the house is torn down, as C stands there in the debris.

The vast wasteland that was a farm suddenly grows into a huge industrial tower, a mall, a business center, an art galley, 21st Century magic, all as C in his queen size sheet walks aimlessly, unseen through this future metropolis.

Then, startlingly, he goes to the roof of the great skyscraper and dives head down into the darkness, as if trying to embrace the comforting dark nothingness of real death. But it doesn’t work. There is more to come. Small, very small pieces of time.


Affleck in his brief time alive has little to do, and then he’s a ghost with even less to do. Mara, who always does very little even when more is required, vanishes early.

Now we’re left with an interesting, sometimes annoying, but refreshingly original film. I’m agnostic about its value. See it and make your own.

Nevertheless, I’m convinced it will be on the Oscar stage with Jimmy Kimmel, unable to resist coming out in a sheet. But hold the laughter. David Lowery, writer director, may just have something here. Don’t you want to be there when that’s revealed?

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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