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A Ghost Story
When I was five years old, I woke one night to find an old woman at the bottom of the bed, staring down at me with a benevolent smile. She silently left my room and descended the wooden stairs to the hall with me in bleary-eyed pursuit. By the time I reached the living room, where my parents were watching television, she had vanished. When I asked my mother where the old woman had gone, there was a moment of confusion that threatened to spark panic, followed by forensic examination to confirm I wasn't being a scamp. Once my parents were certain I was telling the truth, my mother calmly explained that the old woman was probably the previous owner of the house, who had died peacefully in one of the bedrooms. Ever since, I have been convinced that death is not a full stop to this gloriously bewildering life - it is merely a tantalising semi-colon. A Ghost Story is a haunting drama about life and love after death that drapes Oscar winner Casey Affleck in a flowing white sheet as the titular spectre for the majority of the 92-minute running time. Written and directed by David Lowery, the film is an oddity that caresses the heartstrings and lingers in the memory. Intentionally languid pacing will divide audiences, who are used to jump-out-of-seat scares from cinema's forays into the supernatural, especially one protracted scene of actress Rooney Mara tearfully devouring a pie to vomitous excess. She plays M, who lives in a one-level house with her musician husband C (Affleck). Late one night, they are rudely roused by a crash of piano keys in the living room. When a discombobulated C investigates, he finds no evidence of an intruder. Soon after, C is killed in a car accident outside the house and M drowns in crashing waves of grief. She is oblivious to the ghost of her husband, who has walked from the morgue to the house, silently observing her every move and trading mournful glances with another spirit in a neighbouring property. As time passes, rewinds and resets, the ghost of C witnesses a party in the same home where one guest (Will Oldham) drunkenly rages against a nihilistic world hell-bent on self-destruction, and the arrival of a single mother (Sonia Acevedo) and her children, whose unwanted presence compels the ghost of C to lash out. A Ghost Story is an artfully composed memento mori, which unfolds in long unbroken takes. Mara and Affleck share the screen for the majority of the film, with or without a sheet, capturing the devastation, yearning and emotional release of two souls, separated by tragedy. Lowery's elegiac picture is by turns strange and wonderful, beguiling and infuriating, and moved me profoundly.