C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) were a happily married couple who moved into a house in the countryside for him to concentrate on his songwriting career in peace and quiet. Very much in love, they would have the occasional arguments like all couples do, but mostly their time in this isolated location was one of pure contentment. One night, they were awoken by the sound of something falling on the piano and both crept out of bed to investigate, but there was nothing to be seen that could have made the noise, so they returned under the covers and drifted back to slumber. If only that had been their sole problem, as they had no idea tragedy was looming...
Writer and director David Lowery returned to his indie roots with A Ghost Story, the film he made with the profits he gleaned from the Pete's Dragon remake he was at the helm of, though that film did about as well as his smaller films as far as the cultural impact it made. If anything, he created more ripples with this, largely thanks to it being regarded as the worst kind of arthouse flick which committed the perceived sins of boredom, slowness, and the terrible cinematic crime, pretension. Give an audience the sense that you have ideas above your station and you've lost them, and so it was here, notorious for its pie eating scene as the most egregious item of self-indulgence.
That scene comes about as a result of one character's grief, for it’s not long into the story before C is killed in a car crash. If that seems rather abrupt given we have barely gotten to know him, rest assured we spend the following eighty minutes in his company regardless, despite his obvious drawback of being dead. We see him at the morgue where the shellshocked M identifies his body, then, in a moment alone with him, pulls the sheet over his head, a significant act because he proceeds to rise and walk out of the hospital with that material draped over him, only by now he has two eye holes cut into them, presumably so he can see out to make his way back to his house in the country.
M is still living there, and not coping very well, for obviously the couple moved out there to be away from it all, and now there's only her left, she feels the loneliness with acute pain, hence her irrational devouring of half a pie in one go, whereupon after a couple of minutes of an unbroken take she rushes to the bathroom to throw up in the toilet. This part was the dealbreaker for many, either they would turn off at that point or persevere feeling very grumpy and probably doing a lot of sighing and tutting, but if you were happy to go along with this and the theme of how we fill up what time we have with often non-essential acts, then you might be compelled to wonder where this was heading. The answer to that was a cosmic meditation on humanity and our place in the universe, neither of which would be around forever.
C, in his ghostly form for the rest of the running time, did not give Affleck much to do but exude a doleful dejection at his state of supernatural mind - offered the chance to move into an afterlife, he was pining too hard for his wife. The trouble with that was she does miss him terribly, but she, as an alive person, is able to move on and leave him behind as a fond memory, whereas the spectre discovers as a memory himself, that's all he has to get by as time warps around him and he variously observes those who pass through the house, or at one point turns poltergeist in frustration. This posited that if someone said you were wasting your time doing nothing in particular, in the grand scheme of things that's what any of us are doing as our significance is infinitesimal in an unimaginably massive universe; there was a slightly irksome philosopher who showed up halfway through to point all this out to us in case we didn't get it. If you could adjust to its air of spirituality mixed with pragmatism about our value, fleeting as that may be, A Ghost Story had its ruminative rewards. Music by Daniel Hart.