The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Michael O’Sullivan’s review of “A Ghost Story,” click here. Review contains spoilers.
Hours after my father’s death, I arrived at my parents’ house — which had suddenly become solely my mother’s house — and found his Blackberry downstairs. As the work emails came in, sent by people who didn’t know he’d never read them, it kept buzzing, a vibrating reminder that life outside was still going on. Since Dad wasn’t all that great about security, I could read the emails coming, including the one announcing his death to the company. There were meetings to schedule and bases to touch and 20 percent off anything from Brooks Brothers, as long as you acted now. Finally, I grabbed the thing and threw it in a cabinet; eventually, not knowing what else to do, I took it home with me. Its battery long gone, it became my son’s toy and is now cluttering the top of my dresser. But every time I see it, I think back to those buzzings, the feeling that Dad wasn’t quite gone, that maybe he would find a reason to use that 20 percent-off coupon. I should have gotten rid of it but I wasn’t ready to let it go. I’m still not.
“A Ghost Story,” starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, is a meditation on that lingering, but this time from the deceased’s point of view.
Even now, more than a week after I saw it, I’m not sure if it’s good or bad, or even if I liked it. Whether I liked it or not (let me see … nope, still not sure), it has at least stayed with me. Which, given the theme of the movie, makes sense.
The main character is a ghost, fully decked out in Charlie Brown-Halloween-costume-sheet realness. I don’t want to give away who the ghost is (like the trailers and most reviews do), so I shall name it Ghosty.
Ghosty returns to Ghosty’s old house, occasionally poltergeisting it up but usually just hanging around. And hanging around. And hanging around. As ghosts do. Even the metaphorical ones — especially the metaphorical ones.
Ghosty doesn’t have to stick around — Ghosty does have other options — but Ghosty is attached to Ghosty’s house. And, because of Ghosty’s refusal to leave, Ghosty sees that Ghosty is missed, but only by a relatively few people. Those who knew Ghosty move out of the house, replaced by people who have never heard of Ghosty. Life goes on without Ghosty, and Ghosty is in the unique position of being able to see that.
All of us who have lost someone eventually have to come to grips with the fact that life without our loved ones goes on: The sun comes up, the world keeps turning, Blackberries keep buzzing. “A Ghost Story” is about what might be even harder to accept — the world will go on without us. Hopefully, our lives will be remembered and our deaths will be mourned, but if we get to don an eyeholed shroud and stick around like Ghosty, we will realize just how small we are. For good or for bad (I’m STILL not sure), “A Ghost Story” is at least an interesting consideration about grieving from the other side of the grave.