First Hit: Long languished scenes and little dialogue lead to waiting, just like the ghost.
Do not expect to be led into and through this film. The audience must work and carefully watch this film to be able to understand it and I use "understand" very loosely. The basis of this film is to explore love, loss and existence beyond the physical realm.
C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara) are talking about moving from this simple home in suburban America. Then, as they sleep, they hear a bang on the piano in the living room. They explore and find nothing.
C is killed near the home in an automobile accident. M goes to the hospital looks at C lying on the table and pull the sheet up over his head. In what seems like an eternity, after she has left the morgue, the camera focuses on the body lying on the gurney. Then C sits up and gets off the gurney with the sheet over his entire body. When faced with a opening in a wall to walk into the light, the ghost C, turns left and walks down the hall.
Walking in his home, C stands there and watches M live her life, alone, and sad. There is a scene where a neighbor brings a pie over to M’s house and leaves it on the table. M comes home and ends up sitting on the floor of the kitchen, back against the sink cabinet and practically eats the entire pie, runs to the bathroom and throws up. This is a very telling and powerful scene.
The minimal dialogue adds to both the intrigue and patience forcing. At one point M moves away from the home and C is left there alone. He tries to get a small note M has stuffed into the door jamb but because he’s a ghost, he can barely make a more on the door jamb’s paint. Wandering into the bedroom, C looks across at another house and sees another ghost wearing a patterned sheet. They wave and communicate by telepathy, the words appearing as sub-titles on the bottom of the screen. Other people come and go living in the house while he’s still present.
They the film shifts time and takes us both into the future of the land where his home stands and the goes into past of the same land. The ghost simply stands on the property in these time shifts.
Eventually hes witnesses and watches when he and M come to live in the house for the first time. Here is where we see the first smiles from both C and M. It was a reflection of their happier times together. The rest of the film is about re-seeing the beginning of the story again but from a different view.
Affleck is difficult to review because he spends 97% of the film under the sheet. I can imagine that it wasn’t an easy part to fulfill, but it does work. Mara is, as always, an enigma. She is fantastic at being haunting and creating the sense that you want to know what is going on inside of her. She gives few signals but they are the right signals. David Lowery both wrote and directed this effort. I sense he has a lot to share about the flow of life, life after death, and evolution of life and this was a reasonable effort at sharing these ideas.
Overall: If you go see this film, be patient and you may end up learning something about yourself and how you think about life.