Four people walked out of the screening I attended of A Ghost Story. I found it to be a profoundly beautiful and sad story of loss and the passage of time, of impermanence and change.
So who’s right? The people who couldn’t stand it, or me, who found the movie’s images and emotions sticking around for days after?
I’m not sure there’s a real answer to this—A Ghost Story is a challenging movie that will hold something different for each person who sees it. Some won’t be willing to go along with what they’re shown, maybe even finding it laughable, some will simply be confused, and others will melt into the long scenes and slow pace, and watching. Just watching.
There’s precious little plot in A Ghost Story to discuss, so let’s just say that it’s not often that we see a story like this from the point of view of the ghost, and especially a ghost that’s mostly passive as this one is. This isn’t the story of a typical haunting, but it is the story of someone being haunted. Haunted by being forced to watch the world go by and being able to do nothing about it. Haunted by his loved one’s grief. Haunted by change. Our ghost can’t let go.
I’m being deliberately oblique in the way I’m talking about this, partly because there really isn’t a conventional plot here, and partly because of the ecstatic experience I had of watching the way the movie unfolds. I knew next to nothing about A Ghost Story going in, and I’m grateful for that. It’s difficult and occasionally confounding, but it’s a true experience unlike many others I’ve ever had while watching a movie.
Time shows us that nothing is permanent, maybe not even the way we experience time. A Ghost Story makes us ask questions about what can last and what can’t, what we should keep hold of and what we should let go, and what kind of meaning lies behind what happens in our world, if there’s any meaning at all. You may hate this movie. You may love this movie. But if movies are here for any reason, it’s to make us feel something. A Ghost Story will make you feel something.