Having a mainstream actor on screen whose face you only see for around 20 minutes during a 90 minute film sounds pretty jarring. Then when you mix that with the fact that his face is obscured by a white sheet as he plays a ghost of his former self, it’s borderline ludicrous. It’s a film that shouldn’t work, that shouldn’t make you feel, that you should be laughing at. However, thanks to the embracing performances, lingering camera shots and sparing use of dialogue, this is a film that makes you think about love, loss, acceptance and grief in a profoundly deep and moving way.
It’s no spoiler to say that around 10 minutes into the film, Casey Affleck’s character dies, leaving Rooney Mara to grieve. It cuts to Mara looking at Affleck’s body covered in a white sheet in a hospital. A long and looming shot of the room after Mara leaves shows Affleck’s ghost get up and walk around, eye holes have already been provided. From here he walks around the hospital and eventually makes his way back to their home where he is unable to leave. His interactions are only with that of another entity next door. The way the camera looks at a room, or a person, it’s examining all after affects of death and how it much it hits you.
He looks over the bereft Mara as she slowly begins to move on and live her life, up until the moment she leaves. It’s soon after we realise that he’s stuck in this house for some reason. The film only briefly slips into poltergeist territory when a Mexican family moves into the house and he disrupts their home. During a significant course of time, different people are shown to be living here, inhabiting what Affleck clearly still feels is his space.
There are consistent leering shots, all of which appear to be looking to a person in greater detail than we see. One in particular sticks with you in which Rooney Mara sits Whilst at the same time asking yourself, what kind of pie is that? Is it chocolate? Is it pumpkin? Maybe it’s savoury? How many takes did Rooney have to do? How many pie did she eat? WHAT FLAVOUR IS THE PIE?
The pair are never named in the film, they are never given a chance to address each other in such a way but their relationship transcends words and becomes more complex through gestures, looks and movements. It becomes a comment on how love and loss can both be expressed in similar ways; with looks and not words, with gestures, with unshared thoughts.
With it’s subtle and haunting score, nuanced performances and steering mostly clear of the paranormal route, this is a haunting experience that will stay with you for a long time.
4 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.