You do what you can to make sure you're still around after you're gone

You do what you can to make sure you’re still around after you’re gone



Moving forward through life, both by choice and by circumstance requires turning pages. We’d like to believe that like any good book, we can always re-read our favorite bits, but that’s not how it works. The hard truth is that we are never truly able to flip back again.

Those verses, that prose; they are forever lost as we go forward. All that we are left with as we move from cover to cover is what we can remember…the artifacts…the fingerprints…the ghosts.

A GHOST STORY begins by introducing us to a young couple, “C” and “M” (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara). The couple live a simple life in a modest Texan house.

One morning, “C” is involved in an auto collision and dies. After “M” identifies his body at the hospital, “C” suddenly sits up – still under his sheet like a ghost. As he walks down the hospital corridor, a celestial portal opens up…but “C” chooses not to pass through it.

Instead, “C” stays on earth as a ghost. He remains at the house, and remains with “M”. He watches her grieve, watches her try to move on – and watches so long that he’s even present when she does finally move on and leaves the house once and for all.

“C” then is seemingly trapped in place; stuck with the house and whoever happens to inhabit it in perpetuity. His life is over – now he must silently watch as life carries on.


Rooney Mara in A Ghost Story


Many of us like to believe that we have a keen sense of time, but the fact could well be that we have no concept of time at all. Our lives can sometimes feel infinite; ripe with possibilities. We have tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow to do that which we have always wanted. And yet, in truth, “infinite” is always far shorter than we want to admit. “C” and “M” likely thought when they first got together that they would have decades together to build a life. What might they have done differently if they knew their time together would only be a few years long?

On the other side of the equation, when “C” decides to remain, he gets a full understanding of just how long infinity actually is. Months are but a blink, even years can pass before we realize it. This planet has been around for millennia and will remain for millennia after we are dust. There are times where every passing hour can seem excruciatingly long, but in the grand scheme of rising tides and crumbling mountains, those hours are a pittance.

Oddly enough, the feeling of time will affect many as the poem that is A GHOST STORY unfolds. For some, its ninety-two minutes will feel like a blink…for some it will feel excruciatingly long.

It’s difficult not to think about time and its effects when we’re grieving. We are pinned in-place by the pure magnitude of time passed and time passing. Perhaps that’s why grief manifests itself in so many strange ways. Watching “M” try to cope, we see her be pragmatic. She strips the beds, she paints the walls, she packs up items that she has no more need for. We also watch her do peculiar things, things that defy explanation and break our hearts. From our perspective, they might seem sad, or strange…but for “M”, as for anyone that is grieving, they make sense in the moment.

These acts make us feel, or they help us stop feeling. They can speed up the time we want so desperately to pass, or perhaps even take us back to a point in time when things were okay. They are difficult to explain to any onlooker, but they are valid…and seldom depicted on film as intensely as they are in A GHOST STORY.

What’s interesting about this film is that it supposes that it is not just the living that are trying to move on, but the dead too. It’s selfish of us to think that we who survive are the only ones trying to find inner peace. What if those we’ve lost are trying to find peace as well? What if they wanted to do more, to say more? How are they supposed to grieve for that which they did not do and did not say?

We never truly see “C” after he gets covered by that sheet, but we can tell that he is a restless spirit. At first, he wants to make sure “M” is coping, but when it becomes clear that she is moving on, he’s left with no one to look after, and no one to look after him. What then? What is his purpose? He lived, and he died. One would think that would be enough. The truly tragic thought is how that isn’t enough, and that what follows is desire to be set free.

It takes so very much in life for a spirit to be unburdened; what could it possibly take in death?

Is that the responsibility of the living? To ease the souls of the departed and let them know that they can and should be at peace? If so, how do we possibly do it?

Perhaps we achieve it by understanding that fragments of us will always remain with those we loved most. Throughout our lives, we are constantly leaving these traces to be found by those who might seek them. We are scribbling our poems and our prayers on to tiny pieces of paper, and slipping them into spaces to be found. We aren’t doing it specifically, the way that “M” does…but we are doing it whether we realize it our not. We are associating ourselves with songs, we are affecting people with acts of kindness. We build something out of nothing, or we preserve what has already been built.

Through these acts and so many like them, we remember and we are remembered. We take comfort in them, and allow comfort to those who might need it…be it the loved ones we leave behind, or the spirits that have already gone.

The crux of A GHOST STORY seems to be that we will always have a desire to get back that which we cannot. It can seem like it’s “right there”, just beyond our fingertips. It can even feel achievable by putting things back together for one more night, one more weekend, one more spin. However, the truth is we can’t ever get back that which is gone – no matter whether we leave or we get left behind.

The desire to get back what we had can haunt us. However, if we somehow can put the time we got in perspective, and be thankful that we even had it instead of sad that we lost it, we can be at one with these spirits instead of living in fear of them.

After all, ghosts are nothing to be afraid of.


Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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