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Film / A Ghost Story

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A Ghost Story is a minimalist tragedy film directed by David Lowery featuring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. It was released in 2017 and distributed by indie movie company A24.

The movie depicts a story of a deceased man who does not vanish completely but turns into a ghost. He haunts the house where he used to live with his wife and where she remains for some time. Later she departs, but he goes on haunting the house and the people who take up residence.


  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The ghost lingers on until the small neighborhood he lived in has been thoroughly developed into a massive Mega City.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: C becomes a classic version. It's the sheet that covers his body in the morgue, though the origin of the eye-holes is not addressed. He sees another ghost who is covered by an actual bedsheet, judging by the print.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Hispanic mother speaks unsubtitled Spanish to her children.
  • Bittersweet Ending: There's no happy reunion, magical miracle or overt epiphany. C is just apparently ready to let go and move on.
  • Book Ends: Around the start of the film, C and M are awoken by a loud noise in the middle of the night. At the very end of the movie, it's revealed that this was caused by C's own ghost sitting down on the piano.
  • The Cameo:
    • Bonnie "Prince" Billy. He gives an atypically long monologue about how it's pointless to try to achieve any lasting impact on the world because everything is temporary, so you should just live for the moment.
    • Also Kesha.
  • Central Theme: The passage of time, life, love, loss, and essence of existence.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The note that M leaves in the wall after she moves out, which C spends much of the film trying to dig out. We never find out what it says, but it allows him to move on into the next life.
  • Death of a Child: When the settler family gets attacked by natives, not even the children are spared.
  • Dies Wide Open: The aftermath of C's fatal car crash is shown. C is dead behind the wheel of his car, with his eyes open.
  • Existential Horror: The film examines the existential horror of death. The Prognosticator argues that no matter what you do with your life, it will be forgotten and amount to nothing.
  • Foreshadowing
    • In the opening scene, M and C comment on the weird noises that the house makes. You can hear C's ghost scratching at the door panel while they lie on the couch.
    • M mentions leaving notes in the houses she leaves and says she's never returned to any of them.
  • Ghost Story: And a minimalist one at that.
  • Haunted House: The film starts with a passage about a haunted house. C becomes a haunting spirit when he starts throwing temper tantrums at the occupants of his house after M leaves.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Many of the film's early scenes are long and contemplative. This is particularly true of the first scenes in which C is a ghost. One scene notably includes over five minutes of M sorting through her mail and then silently eating a pie. As the film progresses, the Time Skips become longer and longer, increasing the rate of time passage considerably.
  • Mega City: The small town where the main character lives becomes one of these far in the future, with a giant corporate skyscraper being built on the site of his former home.
  • Minimalism: Most of the film consists of a bedsheet ghost wandering around a house and watching the people who live there. The plot is extremely understated and there is little dialogue. Almost the entirety of the story takes place in C and M's house.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The ghost is mostly quiet and behaves; however, at one point he is uncharacteristically aggressive towards the Hispanic family, throwing dishes on the floor like a poltergeist.
    • After C and M peacefully cuddle in bed to fall asleep, the very next scene is C dead behind the wheel after a violent accident.
  • No Name Given: For the rest of the people appearing apart from C and M.
  • Only Known by Initials: Main characters are only known as C and M.
  • The Oner: The scene where the (former) wife of the ghost eats a pie which became the meme that many people mostly remember about this film.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The Spanish speaking family's dialogue is all unsubtitled. Subverted with the dialogue between ghosts, which is only in subtitles.
  • Silence Is Golden: The film uses dialogue sparsely, preferring to helm its gravitas on visual imagery.
  • Thunder = Downpour: Justified in this film. In one case it thunders and then it immediately starts to shower, which changes the mood of the scene.
  • Time Skip: Time frequently skips forward when C is a ghost. The time skipped becomes longer and longer as the film progresses. It culminates in him skipping hundreds of years backwards.
  • Trash the Set: The house that C and M lived in gets torn about about two-thirds of the way through the film. The production was allowed to film in the house for free because it was about to be torn down anyway, and they simply filmed the demolition.
  • The Unreveal: We never find out what's written on the note that M hides in the wall. Word of God says that the script doesn't specify it, and only actress Rooney Mara knows what she wrote; the note was destroyed when the house was torn down, and Affleck couldn't actually read it through the ghost mask.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: M after devouring nearly an entire pie over five (mostly) uncut minutes.
  • We All Die Someday: Said by the character played by Bonnie "Prince" Billy in his very long monologue.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Native Americans execute a pioneer family, three children included, by bow and arrow. C watches one of the daughters decay.