It's nearly impossible to talk about any film distributed by A24 without talking about the company itself. A24 means something today for movies, Slate wrote in a profile piece on the young film company, in the same way that "a 4AD record meant something in 1988."
A24 has been steadily and consistently releasing top quality films like Under the Skin and Ex Machina, and had its best year in 2016 when Moonlight took home Best Picture at the Oscars. Anytime A24 releases a film, our interest is piqued.
A Ghost Story, which opens Friday in select area theaters, is no different. It's A24's latest offering pushing the idea of post-horror forward into film's consciousness. (Others include It Comes at Night, released earlier this summer, and last year's The Witch, both distributed by A24.)
Despite the title, A Ghost Story is not a horror film, which should come across as obvious to fans of A24 or anyone who watched the trailer. Instead, it's more of a metaphysical exploration of existence itself — like The Tree of Life but on a smaller scale, with a 90-minute runtime that never bores the audience.
"We do what we can to endure ... you do what you can to make sure you're still around after you're gone," says a character who breaks down the film's meaning at a party, while a ghostly Casey Affleck observes, covered in a white sheet.
A Ghost Story takes place, for the most part, inside a house bought by Affleck and Rooney Mara. Names are never assigned to any of the characters, but the credits list Mara as "M" and Affleck as "C." Affleck is a musician who spends most of his time inside the house recording. Mara is not so thrilled with where they live and wants to move, even asking Affleck what is it about the house he likes so much. He replies, "history."
Affleck is killed outside the house one morning in a car wreck. Mara goes to the morgue to say her final goodbyes, and once she leaves, the camera is placed on Affleck's corpse for one minute. There is no dialogue (not that there was much to begin with) or any action. Director David Lowery, whose last film was Disney's Pete's Dragon, told Vulture, "we had a solid minute of nothingness, to kind of set the stage for how far the movie is gonna go in terms of its stillness and its sense of quiet."
After that minute of nothingness, and now draped in white cloth, Affleck gets up and walks back to his beloved house as a ghost, where Mara is unaware that she is being watched by him. Time begins to fly but we're unsure of the exact amount. During "M's" grieving, Lowery once again tests the audience's patience with a five-minute scene of her stress-eating a pie in one take. The scene became one of the most talked about at Sundance.
Throughout all the existential, meditative screen time, I never felt bored by A Ghost Story; instead, I was intrigued and wondered where this film would go next. Lowery's decision to use a 1.33:1 square aspect ratio makes the film more intimate, almost like you're viewing found footage that was never meant to be seen by anyone but the person or couple who made it.