Rating: 3 Stars
A couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) are living in a house. It appears that the woman wants to move but the man seems reluctant. The man dies in a car accident. From the hospital morgue, his spirit (ie ghost) rises, wearing a white sheet, and begins to walk around. The ghost is offered the chance to enter the bright light (presumably heaven), but instead decides to go back to the house. There he first witnesses the woman grieving for him. Eventually, the woman leaves, but he still stays at the house, basically haunting it.
That’s pretty much the movie. Casey Affleck, a legitimate movie star, spends a good eighty percent of his screen time completely covered in a sheet. At least you think it’s him, you never get another glimpse of him. Considering the allegations against him, maybe hiding underneath a sheet is not a bad career move for him at this point.
This is a strange movie to be sure. The ghost does not speak. It simply watches. There are long scenes in the film where there is no dialog at all. I envision the screen play being about 20 pages. The movie Drive seems like an adrenaline filled Jason Statham movie in comparison.
One particularly notable scene is where the ghost has just recently started haunting the house. The death of the man is still raw. One of the woman’s friends leaves her a note and freshly baked pie. The woman reads the note and then decides to take a bite out of the pie. In grief, she collapses to the floor with the pie pan and a fork and proceeds to eat pretty close to the entire pie in one sitting, before getting up and running to the bathroom to vomit. The entire time, the ghost just stands there and watches her. On a side note, the scene was done in only one take and apparently Rooney had never eaten pie before. I’m guessing after the gorge, it might be a while before she tries it again (think of the Buddhist actor Choi Min-Sik offering up a prayer before having to eat a live octopus in Old Boy).
So what’s going on with the story? The ghost is a presence. No one interacts with it. With very few exceptions, it does not make its presence known.
Is the ghost there to help the woman through her grief? If so, then it seems to do a pretty piss poor job of it. The ghost seems to do little than stare at her. She comes home with another man and it gets upset. It’s one of the rare times that it makes its presence known to her. She eventually does move out, but the ghost stays.
Is the ghost the manifestation of the man’s grief? In the first stages of the haunting, the ghost seems to get some relief out of just watching the woman. However, as I’ve just said, the woman does leave and the ghost continues haunting the house.
While alive, the man clearly did not want to leave the house although the woman did. Does the house itself hold some connection to the man? And did this connection survive his death? What could that connection be? This seems the most likely since due to a weird plot point that I won’t even bother to go into, the ghost actually ends up inhabiting the same space both in the past and in the future over apparently a several hundred year period (how does a ghost commit suicide, anyway?).
Finally, a major plot point is that, since childhood, the woman leaves notes in every place she lives. She does so again when she leaves this house, and the ghost doggedly tries to retrieve the note. Once it does, it is released.
What does the note say? It is never shown. In fact, in real life, Rooney wrote a message on it that no one ever saw and that was then lost, so Rooney is literally the only person that knows.
My guess? It might have been something along the lines that love is in the heart, love is not in a place.