A Ghost Story
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I rarely see a movie so original that I want to tell people to just see it without reading any reviews beforehand, including my own. David Lowery ’s “A Ghost Story” is one of those movies. So I’m urging you in the first paragraph of this review to just see it and save this review for later. If you want more information, read on. There are no spoiler warnings after this because as far as I’m concerned, everything I could say about this film would constitute a spoiler.
This tale of a man who dies young and lingers around the property where he and his wife once lived is bound to be one of the most divisive films of the year. I didn’t know anything about it going in, except that its main character was a person who dies and spends the rest of the movie walking around mute, wearing a white sheet with eyeholes cut out of it. The film is a ghost story, in the sense that there’s a ghost in it, but it’s also many other things: a love story, a science fiction-inflected story about time travel and time loops, and a story about loneliness and denial, and the ephemeral nature of the flesh, and the anxiousness that comes from contemplating the end of consciousness (provided there’s no life after death—and what if there isn’t?).
The characters are so archetypal that they don’t have names, just initials. C (played by Casey Affleck ) is a musician who lives with his wife M ( Rooney Mara ) in a small house surrounded by undeveloped property somewhere in the vast flatness of Texas. C dies in a car crash early in the story but continues to linger on as a ghost, silently observing his wife’s grief and her eventual exit from the home they once shared. He stays in the house as new tenants move in, including a single mother ( Liz Franke ) and her two children (Carlos Bermudez and Yasmina Guiterrez) and some young, single people who throw parties with lots of bohemian artist-types. Time keeps moving forward. At a certain point the house gets leveled and replaced by a gigantic luxury condo-hotel type of development. C stays rooted to the spot where he died, as if he’s stuck in the “denial” phase of the grieving process.
The movie’s two most fascinating formal traits are its decision to keep C under the sheet for much of the film’s running time, and the way it moves its story along with hard cuts rather than dissolves, fades-to-black, or other signifiers that a lot of time has passed. The sheet denies the film’s leading man most of the tools he’d normally use to communicate emotion. He must instead approach the character as if he were onstage in a play where gestures are more important than words, and try to convey surprise, sadness or anger by holding his head and shoulders in a particular way, or turning quickly instead of slowly to look at something.
But this opens up a different kind of relationship between character and viewer: we’re projecting ourselves onto C as we might as children playing with dolls or stuffed animals. Simple, powerful emotions can be summoned that way, and it’s those sorts of emotions that are this movie’s specialty. There were many stretches where I was reminded of European art cinema classics like “Stalker” and “ The Passenger ,” which derive much of their power from asking you to commit to staring at the images the film has put in front of you, and think about what they might mean and how you feel about them. There are other times when the film is reminiscent of “ Groundhog Day ,” in its ability to weave guilt, karma, and fear of change into a story that might otherwise have played as a light diversion.
The hard cuts that move us through the story convey the idea that C perceives time differently than we do. In a scene that involves decay, which I won’t describe in too much detail here because it occurs in a context I didn’t expect to encounter, a body becomes a skeleton in a series of cuts that last about 30 seconds. The deeper we get into C’s story, the more Lowery teases our perceptions of time, until by the end he’s got us questioning the idea of singular, linear experience. (“A Ghost Story” would make a great double feature with Shane Carruth ’s “ Primer ” or Richard Linklater ’s “ Boyhood ,” two other Texas films about the perception and experience of time.)
“A Ghost Story” feels bracingly, at times alienatingly new. It’s a movie you can’t be quite sure how to take. There are moments where the movie seems to be handing you keys to interpretation, but I’d caution viewers against looking at such scenes for answers, because they have a rope-a-dope quality—as if they're designed to bait and trap those who would sneer at this kind of movie. In any event, this is a film that's more inclined to ask questions than answer them, much less give life advice. A long monologue by a party guest ( Will Oldham ) about humanity’s doomed attempts to leave traces that last, especially through art, would seem to suggest that a song C writes for M will outlast him, but we have no evidence of that. The film’s presentation of ghosthood as a purgatorial in-between state, inhabited by individuals who refuse to let go of the life they can no longer have, jibes with many Western religions’ ideas about the afterlife, but I don’t think the resolution of C’s story gives us any hope of Heaven; to me it seemed more like a warning to be at peace with the possibility that we may never know the answers to the big questions.
I should admit here that any take I can offer is provisional. I need to see the film a second time to sweep away preconceived notions that might’ve been lingering in my mind during my first viewing of “A Ghost Story.” The movie is so simple in its storytelling and its situations are observed so patiently that the result has a disarming purity, as if Lowery jammed a tap into his subconscious and recorded one of his dreams directly to film. It’s probably the closest that a lot of people are going to get to seeing a late-period silent movie on a big screen—a melodrama that deals in big ideas and obvious symbols, and that puts across fantastical concepts, such a ghost haunting the landscape over a period of decades, by putting a sheet over its leading man and having him walk around slowly and stare blankly at stuff. (Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo shoots the movie in the old-fashioned, square-ish “Academy” ratio, letting us see the rounded edges of the frame; this has a constricting effect, so that we seem to be spying through a keyhole at someone else’s life.)
People either seem to love “A Ghost Story” or hate it, with no in-between. It got mostly very positive notices during festival screenings, but on the eve of its commercial release I’ve found myself arguing with colleagues who think it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes and find it too precious, too sentimental, too much of a one-joke movie, or not enough of one thing or another thing. I loved everything about it, including the scenes I wasn’t sure how to take. I recommend seeing it in a theater because it’s a movie that has as much to say about our perception of time and permanence as it does about love and death. Much of the impact that it has, positive or negative, comes from having to sit there and watch it without interruptions and think about what it’s showing you, and how.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of RogerEbert.com, TV critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.
The Zone of Interest
The Sweet East
A Ghost Story (2017)
Rated R for brief language and a disturbing image.
Rooney Mara as M
Casey Affleck as C
Kesha Rose Sebert as Spirit Girl
- David Lowery
- Andrew Droz Palermo
- Daniel Hart
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The Ending Of A Ghost Story Explained
For the past few years, director David Lowery has consistently proven that he can tell moving, emotional stories across a wide variety of formats and styles. He directed "Pete's Dragon," a live-action Disney remake that critics praised for being much smarter and subtler than many similar titles (via Rotten Tomatoes ). Lowery is also the director behind "The Old Man and the Gun," a film that may turn out to be Robert Redford's last onscreen performance (per IndieWire ). It tells the story of an aging con man, and manages to be consistently entertaining even as it finds an emotional center to the story it's telling.
Now, as fans of the director eagerly anticipate " The Green Knight " — Lowery's next project, which is set to hit theaters on July 30 — some are looking back on his older films to better appreciate his style.
Although there's something to latch onto in every one of Lowery's films, "A Ghost Story," his 2017 film starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara , is one of the director's least obviously accessible titles. In the film, Affleck and Mara play a married couple named C (Affleck) and M (Mara). C dies unexpectedly in a car crash, and instead of moving on to another realm after his death, he decides to stay and watch what happens following his demise, hidden under a simple white sheet with two eyeholes.
Here's the ending of "A Ghost Story" explained.
The end of A Ghost Story circles back on itself
Following his death, C watches M grieve for him, and M eventually comes to the decision to move out of the home they shared. Before she does that, though, she writes a short note and leaves it in a crack in one of the house's wall. Then, C begins to haunt the people who move into the house after M leaves, and tries continuously to pry the note out of its hiding place in the wall.
Although no one can see him, C is still able to disrupt the house and its inhabitants, until the house is eventually torn down and replaced with a skyscraper. C climbs to the top of the skyscraper and jumps off, only to find himself on the same piece of land that was first being settled centuries earlier. Time eventually hurls him back to the moment when another version of C, who's still alive, is buying the house with M. We see the strain in their marriage, and C's ultimate decision to give in to M's request to move. We then witness his death again, and the emergence of another version of C as a ghost who cannot see the ghost we've been following throughout the movie. It's at this moment that C is finally able to pry the note loose and read it. When he does, he vanishes and his sheet falls to the floor.
A Ghost Story is about the circular nature of time
All of that may seem a little dense, but "A Ghost Story" manages to turn its complex web into a moving story about the role individuals play in the universe. The film's central ideas are actually articulated quite well by one of the hipsters who lives in C and M's place after M moves out. As the hipster puts it, there are certain remnants of humanity that will live on in our collective memories long after civilization has collapsed.
People may die, but parts of them live on long after their deaths. They're in the memories of those that loved them, of course, but also in other small things, like the notes on a piano or a photo falling to the floor, that have much larger reverberations than they may initially appear to. C's ghost sees not just how his life impacted the world following his death, but also how his spirit continues to subtly influence the world around him.
A Ghost Story helps viewers process grief
The tragedy that happens at the beginning of "A Ghost Story" kicks off a heartbreaking look at how grief can ripple through a person's life. In part, the film is about the profound feeling of absence that comes with death, and the ways in which that lack is both real and not real. In a very literal sense, C is still around, but he's become a ghost. By making C's presence actually literal, "A Ghost Story" reflects how a person's life reverberates out to become one small piece in a larger universe, regardless of who they were while they were alive.
The great figures of history have their names etched in stone for centuries to come. What "A Ghost Story" seems to suggest, though, is that normal people leading quiet lives also have a profound impact on the world, and that impact lasts long after they've shuffled off this mortal coil.
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A Ghost Story Explained (Plot & Ending Explained)
A Ghost Story is not a horror movie. And no, this is not a spoiler. This is to ensure that you go watch it with the right expectation and aren’t left fuming. It is, however, a supernatural drama . The film stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in the lead roles. The film is written, directed and edited by David Lowery. I found the film a little depressing, I think you are supposed to. However, this is not an article intending to review the film so let’s get down to the plot. Here’s the plot and ending of the movie A Ghost Story explained, spoilers ahead.
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A Ghost Story: Plot Explained
So, the lead characters in A Ghost Story never really call out to each other and they are credited as C (Casey) and M (Rooney). I’m going to run through the plot linearly . C and M are a married couple and move into a house. They seem to be a happy couple. They live in that house for a while. I could be wrong but C is shown to be a musician who is not very successful . He does produce music, even lets M listen to his compositions now and then, but hasn’t found commercial success as such. The scene where M listens to his entire song is a little inconclusive. M completes listening but leaves without much of a reaction or feedback. She tears up. Perhaps over time, she would like to move on from what they have been striving to do . A part of this includes moving out of the house. Also, M, as a little girl is used to moving houses regularly. However, C doesn’t want to move. He feels there is a history to the house – we’ll get to this later. Over time, he seems to have become mellow. Perhaps because his career is not taking off.
A Ghost Story: Lyrics of the song he composed:
Are you runnin’ late? Did you sleep too much? All the awful dreams felt real enough. Is your lover there? Is she wakin’ up? Did she die in the night and leave you alone? Alone. Mirror, mirror. There’s your crooked nose. What a stupid game. Getting nothing done with your longest track, your highest score, while you crush your back and lament the war. War. Am I runnin’ late? I get overwhelmed. All the awful dreams. All the bright screens. Is my lover there? Are we breakin’ up? Did she find someone else? And leave me alone. Alone.
Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and call that “not so cheerful”. Perhaps the reason for M’s reaction to the song. But the other thing that you do notice about the lyrics is that it talks about a couple breaking up, death, finding someone else, and being left alone. All of that (but for the breaking up) actually happens. I’ll get to a theory on why C might have written this but a little later on.
Eventually, C agrees to leave. Just then they hear a loud clang from the piano. They go to the living room to check. They can’t find anything. They go back to sleep. Again, we’ll get back to this scene later on . Soon, C meets with a car accident and dies. M goes to verify that the deceased is indeed her husband. M covers her dead husband’s body with the white sheets and leaves the hospital.
C wakes up as a ghost. He moves around the hospital without anyone noticing him, because, you know, he’s a ghost. Initially, a viewer could get confused with the depiction of this ghost with the sheets over its head . But C is dead and he’s now a ghost, we’ll call him Ghost-C . He approaches a wall with a light shining from within. This is probably the window to the afterlife. Ghost-C isn’t quite ready yet. He moves away from it and the window closes. Ghost-C makes his way back to the house.
Ghost-C sees M mourning the loss of C. We are shown a 4-minute scene of M eating a large pie. She’s not enjoying it. She’s just unable to cope with the loss of C. She eats so much that eventually, she vomits. She’s grieving, it’s a process. All the while, Ghost-C is right there watching.
Time passes. M goes about her days in a monotonous fashion. Ghost-C is independent of the concept of time. He’s just an observer . Ghost-C also sees another ghost in the house across the road. The other ghost says that she is waiting for someone but can’t remember who. This shows that the other ghost has been around for a very long time . Eventually, M moves on. She’s dropped home by another guy. Ghost-C is angered. The lights fluctuate and he knocks some books down. M notices that the book lying open on the floor is “ A Haunted House ”.
Later on, M listens to the song composed by C when he was still alive. She remembers being moved by it. In time, she finally decides to leave, move on. The house gets emptied. She writes down something on a piece of paper and slips it into the cracks of the door frame. Ghost-C is left alone. Just as Ghost-C tries fishing out the note, the next set of residents come to live in the house. We are shown that the children are able to sense the presence of Ghost-C. Hit upon by a lack of purpose, Ghost-C eventually loses his shit and behaves like a ghost we’re all used to seeing. Ghost-C begins to throw plates and break them. The family screams in terror. Next morning, the mother calmly collects the broken shards, her sanity, and gets the hell out of the house.
A lot more time passes by. Many residents stay and vacate the house. We are shown a party thrown by one such resident. Ke$ha, the Tik Tok girl, has a little cameo here . One of the dudes in the party breaks into a monologue about how everything, no matter how great, will always come to an end. It’s really not a very captivating speech but the essence of it is that eventually time will cause everything to fade away and in the end, time itself will fade away. Ghost-C is standing there, listening, in pain, I’d imagine.
Still trying to get the note
Years pass, the house is left dilapidated. Ghost-C still wants to get to that note M has put in the crack. Just as he gets near it, a bulldozer tears the place down. The note is lost. At this point, the other ghost from across the road states that who she’s waiting for is not coming and leaves in a poof of a falling blanket.
Time passes and a high-rise building is created in the place where the house stood. Ghost-C continues roaming the area, lost. He eventually decides to end it all ( as in, end being a wandering ghost and move on to the afterlife ) and jumps off the roof. But that doesn’t happen to be the method to leave to the afterlife. Instead, Ghost-C goes all the way back in time. To when the very first inhabitants move into the place where the house will eventually stand. The 19th century. Ghost-C is independent of time and is now going to loop back and experience the centuries that have passed.
The first inhabitants are rudely interrupted by arrows to their chest. Ghost-C witnesses the carcasses rotting. Centuries pass. Ghost-C finally loops back to the time when C and M first move into the house. Ghost-C witnesses C and M live their lives in that house again.
A Ghost Story Ending Explained
So you see, Ghost-C was already in the house when C and M first moved in. The “history” that C mentions that the house has, in a vague sense, is the history seen through a dead version of himself who is also in that house. This also circles back to the lyrics of the song. They are things that are going to happen, witnessed by a dead version of himself. This is pure speculation. I’d love to see other theories around this. Please do drop a comment below.
One night, Ghost-C sits down at the piano causing a loud clang to happen. This is the same clang that M and C wake up to earlier on . When they come to check, they obviously can’t see Ghost-C and they go back to bed.
Then C dies. Here’s a confusing bit. Ghost-C witnesses Ghost-C-2 go through everything that Ghost-C once when through. Furthermore, Ghost-C-2 can’t see Ghost-C. This means that Ghost-C might stay on in an eternal loop . Ghost-C now has access to the door frame again. He fishes out the note. Soon as he opens the note, Ghost-C, too, vanishes in a poof of falling drapes.
What what did the note say in A Ghost Story?
In short, it appears the note contained the lyrics from the song C composed earlier in the film giving C’s ghost closure and that’s why we see the ghost finally move on and leave. To get a better understanding of this we need to revisit what M talks about when she was a young girl.
When I was little and we used to move all the time, I’d write these notes, and I would fold them up really small and I would hide them in different places, so that if I ever wanted to go back, there’d be a piece of me there waiting. They were just like, old rhymes and poems. Things I wanted to remember about living in that house or what I liked about it.
I don’t feel that M senses Ghost-C’s presence in the house and is writing a note to him. She’s just following her routine practice of leaving a note in the house she’s now leaving. It is “a piece of her” that she’s leaving behind. She also mentions that what she wrote in her previous notes were old rhymes and poems, things she wanted to remember. She is shown to cherish the song C once composed. It is likely that she wrote down a verse from that song, a rhyme. Ghost-C has finally got to the note which represents a “piece of M”. Assuming that the content of the note was from his song, it gives him added closure. He breaks out of his eternal loop and moves on to the afterlife. The film ends.
That’s all I’ve got. What were your thoughts on the plot and ending of A Ghost Story? It would be great to see other theories around this ending. So please do comment.
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by Jason Reynolds
Ghost summary and analysis of chapters 1 – 2.
Narrated in the first person by the novel’s protagonist, Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw, Ghost opens with Castle commenting on peculiar world records: most balloons blown up with one’s nose, owning the most rubber ducks. Castle believes he may hold the record for eating the most sunflower seeds, which he buys from Mr. Charles ’s “country store,” which is an odd name because they live in a city.
Castle buys his dollar’s worth of sunflower seeds from Mr. Charles and goes to the bus stop, where he sits and watches people working out in the gym across the street. It amuses him to see them almost pass out from exertion. Castle comments that he eats sunflower seeds because it’s something his father used to do. He claimed the seeds were growing in his stomach, but sunflowers are made of two good words—sun and flower—and his father “ain’t got two good words in him.”
Castle explains that his dad “lost it” three years earlier: his alcoholism would turn him into a mean person. Castle was in the habit of sandwiching his head between his mattress and his pillow when his parents were fighting. But one night his mother yanked him out of bed and said they had to leave, immediately. As Castle and his mother were leaving, Castle’s dad fired a pistol at them.
Castle and his mother ran as fast as they could to Mr. Charles’s store, which is open 24/7. He hid Castle and his mother in his storage room and called the police. Castle says the police turned up at their house to find Castle’s father sitting on the steps drinking beer and eating sunflower seeds, his gun beside him. It was as though he was waiting to be caught. Castle doesn’t know if he is happy about his father being given a ten-year prison sentence.
He sometimes wishes his dad was home on the couch, eating sunflower seeds. Regardless, Castle learned to run that night as he fled for his life. The chapter ends with Castle leaving the bus stop to watch kids running on the track at the park. He says running isn’t something he has ever had to practice: it’s just something he knows how to do.
Castle watches the middle-school track practice, commenting on how he’s never heard of famous runners, unlike in basketball. The turtle-resembling coach shouts at the runners about how they are part of the Defenders, one of the best teams around. Three “newbies” do sprints, and the fastest by far is Lu , a boy with Black features but white skin. Annoyed by Lu’s cocky swagger, Castle rolls up his jeans and tucks in the laces of his high-top sneakers before lining up to race Lu.
The coach tells Castle it’s a private practice and that tryouts were last week. Castle ignores him. Eventually the coach says he can do one race and then has to leave. Castle can’t explain what happens during the race—he simply runs and runs and runs. People cheer at the end, and neither boy knows who won. The coach says it was too close to call. Satisfied that he has made his point, Castle goes to grab his backpack and leave.
The coach comes over and introduces himself as Coach Brody. He ascertains that Castle doesn’t run for any other team and so invites him to join the Defenders. Castle says, “Nope,” claiming his sport is basketball, and track is “just running.” He also says his mother would probably say no anyway. Coach Brody says if he runs with the team, his legs will get so strong he’ll be dunking by next year. Castle believes this is a lie, as he doesn’t know of any eighth graders who can dunk.
Coach Brody convinces Castle to let him ask his mother directly if Castle can join the team. Castle doesn’t trust the coach, but he hangs around until the end of practice. Castle sees the coach staying to talk with the mothers and it looks like they know each other well, and are even hugging. This makes Castle trust him more, because he knows mothers don’t trust anyone around their kids. Castle is surprised to see that Coach Brody’s car is a cab. It turns out he coaches because he loves it, but to make money, he is a cab driver.
Although most people treat Castle “funny” when they find out he lives in the impoverished Glass Manor neighborhood, he tells Coach Brody the area and they begin driving there. Coach Brody talks to his wife on the phone most of the ride. They happen across Castle’s mother, who is walking in her white cafeteria-worker scrubs. She is surprised to see her son in a cab, but she gets in the backseat at the coach’s prompting. Skeptical at first because she thinks Castle needs to focus on school, Castle’s mother accepts the coach’s claim that Castle has potential as a runner. He promises that Castle will get his homework done and not mess up in school even once. For the first time in Castle’s life, he is on a team.
In the opening pages of Ghost , Jason Reynolds establishes the casual and often humorous voice of the novel’s twelve-year-old narrator and protagonist, Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw. However, the boy’s quotidian interest in learning about obscure world records and eating excessive amounts of sunflower seeds from Mr. Charles’s store contrast with the serious turn his narration soon takes.
Using Castle’s passion for sunflower seeds as a transition to discussing his father, Reynolds introduces the major themes of trauma and adversity. Castle comments on how his father, three years before the events of the novel, turned violent one night while drunk and tried to shoot Castle and his mother. The traumatic episode is significant because it taught Castle that he is capable of running incredibly fast. In this way, that night, as terrifying and unwanted as it was, precipitated Castle’s discovery of his natural talent for track running.
However, because Castle thinks of running as something he simply knows how to do, the idea that other kids would practice track running is absurd to him. Castle watches the Defenders run drills from a skeptical distance, finding their running gear and tiring exercises ridiculous. Castle’s frustration at Lu’s cocky attitude and the way the coach inflates Lu’s ego prompts him to challenge Lu to a sprint. In an instance of situational irony, Castle matches Lu’s skill despite the fact that he has no formal training as a track athlete and lacks appropriate running attire.
Having achieved his goal of putting Lu to shame, or at least proving that he can run equally as fast, Castle is prepared to walk away from the track practice victorious. However, Coach Brody sees something special in Castle, and wants to hone the boy’s natural talent. Still skeptical, Castle dismisses the idea that track is a real sport and pretends that he is a basketball player, while in truth the older players at the public court don’t let him join any games.
The theme of trust enters the story when Coach Brody convinces Castle to let him try to convince Castle’s mother to let Castle join the team. Weary of strangers, Castle’s mother is inclined to distrust Coach Brody and question why the man has her son in his cab. However, the notion that Coach Brody will ensure Castle stays on top of schoolwork is appealing to Castle’s mother, who knows that her son struggles with discipline.
Ghost Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Ghost is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
what was Tia thinking from the sporting goods place? and what is she wanting to do about ghost
What chapter are you referring to?
What modd is suggested throught the main characters of point of view
I don't know what you mean by "modd" .
figurative language between pages 90 - 135
Sorry, my page numbers will not match yours so I'm not certain where you are meaning. Perhaps if you quote a sentence from the passage, I can find it.
Study Guide for Ghost
Ghost study guide contains a biography of Jason Reynolds, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About Ghost
- Ghost Summary
- Character List
Movie A Ghost Story Discussed and Explained
Watch A Ghost Story online at anyone of of these online streaming confectionaries:
I’m going to start with, “A Ghost Story Isn’t For Everyone.” But I’m betting it’ll almost definitely work for you. Most people that hang out here at THiNC. are into movies that are a little more difficult to understand and take some unpacking in order to make heads or tails out of them. And A Ghost Story is DEFINITELY one of those movies. Anyway, it has my endorsement that it will be worth your time if those are the sorts of movies you are into. But yeah, it can be incredibly slow, and extraordinarily thoughtful in its cadence.
So, for those of you who haven’t seen it, A Ghost Story tells the story of two people. One of them dies (this isn’t a spoiler, this is the POINT) and the rest of the movie is the interactions between the survivor and the ghost that remains. It is a measured movie that rewards the thoughtful among us. This isn’t a Bruce Willis Die Hard. That is for sure. But if you have a movie diet that requires pensiveness, this will fill your quota for a month. But it’s worth while pensiveness. (Is there another kind?) Entre-trailer:
And really all I want to know about this movie? How’d they make the eyes black like that? Heheh. So yeah, go see it if you haven’t already. And now to the spoilers. Ok? Everyone leave that hasn’t seen this movie already. Come back. Join in. Simple enough.
HERE BE DRAGONS – SPOILERS AHEAD
Ghost Story Overview
This really is the simplest of all stories… until, it isn’t. But even that left hook is manageable. But here it is in a nutshell, Casey Affleck – or M in the credits, and Rooney Mara – or C in the credits, have this quiet and intriguing relationship together. They seem betwixt and between. C wants to move, and M definitely does not. C tries to talk about it and M really won’t have any part of it.
And as these conversations are happening we see spectral lights and unaccounted for lens flares. I immediately jumped back to Personal Shopper and the ghosts we saw in that movie and assumed that even before his death we had a ghost already there with them. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Possibly the most interesting, and most intriguing, piece of dialogue in the movie is C’s discussion of her habit of leaving notes in homes that she was moving away from. And it is so important, I thought I’d just quote it directly here for reference:
C – “When I was little, we would move all the time, I would write these notes, and fold them up really small and I would hide them.” M – “What’d they say?” C – “They were things I just wanted to remember so that if I ever wanted to go back there would be a piece of me there waiting.”
We’ll refer back to this a little later as well. But for now, we know that C leaves important notes behind when she moves on. Oh, and they are significant. Really really important.
A Ghost Story – How Did M Die?
As the movie moves forward we are soon presented with a fairly gnarly car crash just outside of the house. And cut to the hospital morgue where we see C standing over M. No tears. But she is obviously shattered. Obviously M died in the car accident… but the only way that I can figure out how it happened is if he backed out of his driveway and was hammered by a speeding car that didn’t see him coming. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this movie is as much about this house as it is about C & M, and dropping to totaled cars just outside the house is brilliant. But in my neighborhood anyway, it’d be difficult to die pulling out of my drive way. Just saying. So yeah, the only way that I can think that he died right outside his driveway, was by getting hit by some oncoming car.
A Ghost Story – Eternity Bypassed
After an interminable shot of C and M in the hospital morgue, M gets up. And it was just such a gloriously beautiful shot from beginning to end. I even went back later and checked to see how C had placed the sheet so that it would fold so perfectly. I was, in a word, intrigued. Anyway, as M is walking down the hallway, a door opens up. An opportunity to punt on this thing called earth. But M doesn’t take it. Which, I might add, makes sense, seeing what we know about M. He’s a home body. A musician. He doesn’t want to give up on the house. He wants to stay close. So yeah, M isn’t going to take the bright glowing door. No. Not our M. Instead he heads back to C and their home.
A Ghost Story – A Sense of Loss
(Can I just say that I literally, just minutes ago made myself, a much too big Mojito… with wayyy too much rum? Right, so this Ghost Story retelling might just get a little bit woo. Whatever that means.) Now that M is up and mobile this picture of the dead is just such a perfect picture. A sheet, a foreboding, standing in the corner as you gorge yourself on an entire pie. Which, I saw this fantastic quote somewhere, with Casey talking about Rooney and this scene that I just have to share:
“There was quite a bit of build up to that. What kind of pie is it going to be? Where is the pie coming from? Who is making the pie? Rooney had strangely never eaten a pie which is the weirdest thing. There are lots of things I haven’t eaten, but you’d think a pie is something you’d have come across at some point.”
Which, while the movie was super slow and introspective, this was my favorite part of the movie… just this perspective of the dead just longing and hankering for reconnecting with their inconsolable loved ones. I don’t want to jump to the end of my review, but I might as well spill the beans at some point. Personally, the really gorgeous aspect of this film was just how perfectly it described the loss of a loved one. The entirety of the movie is 100% lacking other people and other connections. And in death, even though people might be around, it is so difficult to focus on them, or to even share why it is it hurts so much. Right? And you can see this in C and M.
Actually, I see the Ghost as a manifestation of C’s grief more than a literal character in the film. The boulder that is getting dragged around behind her more than anything else. Right? I mean, sure, he’s there. But it seems to me that the movie comes from her perspective. A retelling of the horror that she is going through, if that makes sense at all.
Eventually C brings someone home and M knocks books on the floor to show his outrage. But then we get this fantastic music interlude where M was sharing a song with C. I can relate to this interaction more than I would care to admit. But I’ll just leave it at that.
A Ghost Story – Life, Universe and Everything
This brings us to this fantastic party wherein we get a soliloquy from a bald guy waxing eloquent. Everyone is holding to his every word. “What if there was no God and we find out that all of Beethoven’s work was for nothing? Maybe it was just so that others would remember him? To endure? You write a book, but the pages will burn.” It’s an interesting dilemma. Why are we here? Maybe we are here to cast as far a ripple as possible?
But What About the Note?
We realize very quickly on, that C’s note will be the central device (McGuffin if you will) for the entirety of the movie. What did she write? Why did she leave it there painted into the doorframe? And there is M, after having lived through other occupancies of the house, with the note almost out, only to have it wrecked by a backhoe. Hrm. Disappointing! How are we going to find out what the note says!?!?
Well, on goes the movie into the future, where the house gets rebuilt as an office building and a parking garage. Well, M quickly sickens of this, and takes a header off the office building “killing himself” again. He apparently did that in order to flash backwards in time to the original homesteaders of the area. What?! Where is this movie going? But soon enough we are back to M and C… and now M-the-ghost is watching M-the-man interact with C. Soon enough M is dead again, and now there are two of him ghosting throughout the house. (Which, completely explains the sounds they were hearing before he died. It explains the things falling on the piano. The spectral lights. Which, I had assumed was another ghost in the house ahead of him. Which, I guess is true, to a degree.)
But then M finally gets the note out. And finally! We are going to get a chance to see it! And there was M-the-ghost flipping open the note he had spent hundreds of years trying to discover. And as he opens up the note – poof – blam – gone disappears both manifestations of himself. Here’s a pretty sweet quote from Lowery about this doubling back effect. Even though he wrote the time loop into the first draft, he didn’t initially anticipate the final shot of two ghosts standing there watching her.
“That was a spontaneous day on set that ended up being a very definitive and profound visual, and we could have kept it going!” he recalls. “We had done three takes of that shot, and then I thought, ‘When we shot this earlier for the first version, the ghost was standing at the window, so shouldn’t he be there? And if he could see the ghost next door, couldn’t he also see himself?’ I didn’t want to get too bogged down in rules, but it seemed like a nice visual reference to what’s happening. When we saw it on camera that day, we thought it really brought the movie home in a significant fashion.”
Somebody Explain A Ghost Story’s Ending To Me
So what happened with that ending? The note was obviously the key necessary to free his soul from the wandering, lost, and confused soul that he had become. Remember that other ghost in the house next door? Well, he was confused and totally off kilter, completely unclear as to who they were waiting for. Could it be that the longer M roamed, the longer he waited, the more confused he’d become? But M seemed to maintain the singular mindset of his home, this place, and the note. Right? Even after waiting hundreds(?) of years to arrive back at his home again he began digging the note out right away.
For me, the movie was actually about that feeling of foreboding and dread of loss after losing someone close to you. Quick rabbit trail, I was four or five the first time I lost a very close friend. I remember his “catching” cancer and his losing his hair. I remember playing with him even when he was too sick to really interact, but I spent time with him because I knew no one else would. And the night Tom died, we were both in the same hospital together. I had just had my tonsils removed. And Tom had been admitted with yet another scary altercation with the demon cancer. But this time, Tom lost the battle, and succumbed to his injuries. And as I spent the next week or two eating jello and slurping cottage cheese I remember the true oppression that was my mourning. I remember scribbling drawings about Tom. I remember refusing to speak about it. It was as if he was there in the room with me, standing with a sheet over his head, watching from a distance.
This is what the movie was about for me. The real dance that the living have with the dead. Not the other way round. Though, I will forgive you if you wrongly disagree (heheh).
But who cares about what the movie was ultimately about – what was in the note!?! What if we walk through a couple possibilities…
Theory Number #1 – Sod Off
This one made me laugh when I thought of it. What if she was just angry and pissed about the way things went and she just wrote “Sod off!” on the note. She had a feeling that he was still hanging around and decided to just tell him to bugger off? Yeah, I don’t like it either, but it was worth a chuckle. Lowery even joked in one interview I saw that no one on the set knew what Rooney wrote… and even if she did, she’s not sharing. So what if, he said, what if it actually just said boo? Too funny.
A Ghost Story Note Theory #2 – Sentimentality and Best Wishes
If you were about to die, like literally had 20 seconds to decide what to say, for MOST people you’d snap into the normal ritual of things that you would say normally. “I love you – you mean the world to me…” whatever you normally say. So in this theory I assume that she just dashed off her thoughts of love and best wishes for M.
A Ghost Story Note Theory #3 – A Lyric
My personal favorite theory – and therefore, THE CORRECT theory – is that she wrote a lyric on the page. Better yet, what if she wrote a lyric from that song that M had played for her that he had written. (Which, was actually a song from the band Dark Rooms, a song called I Get Overwhelmed.) And, the opening stanza seems fairly apropos: “Are you runnin late? / Did you sleep too much? / All the awful dreams / Felt real enough / Is your lover there? / Is she wakin up? / Did she die in the night? / And leave you alone? / Alone.” What if she chose a line from this verse of his song? Like maybe, “Is your lover there? Is she wakin up?” Wouldn’t that have been the perfect closed loop for them both?
A Ghost Story Note Theory #4 – It Really Doesn’t Matter
Theory four? Yeah, theory 4 is a cop out – but it’s what the director thinks… so yadda yadda, we’ll mention it here. So yeah, what if it doesn’t really matter? Further on in that interview with the writer and director Lowery, he said, “We thought about whether or not we should show it, but it doesn’t matter as much as just knowing that he got it. Nothing written there would mean anything to the audience at that point, and it would just complicate that moment — you’d see something, process it, and then wonder what it means.”
If you know me at all you know I do not, at all, like this answer. Any. I always want to push to the answer. I want to drive the logical to ground and figure out everything I can. But on this one… I don’t know. If it were real life – stretch I know – but if it were real, I agree with Lowery. It wouldn’t make sense to us at all. It’d be totally nonsensical. Maybe it was a quote from a thing she sang around the house from their song. Or maybe it was just a simple letting go of whatever she was holding on to while eating that pie. I don’t know. But in this theory it is relevant to the two of them, and that’s all that really matters.
Final Thoughts On A Ghost Story
I know that many in American will absolutely trash this movie on Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere. GAH! This movie as so slow! Awful movie. Terrible Plot! NOTHING HAPPENED. Sha. I found it a really an amazing film. Deeply profound. Made me think about what it would be like to lose my wife. What it would be like to really try and work through that pain. Truly. I really did find it fascinating at every level. Loved the loop back and the re-dive back into history.
And as for the note? The linchpin for the entire movie? I personally think that she would have scribbled a line from a lyric that M had written. Honoring him. Remembering him. And an homage to his creativity and his passions for place and this particular location. It actually logically follows. I may even tweet out to Rooney and Lowery to see what they think. But ultimately, I do agree with Lowery, it doesn’t really matter. We do know though, that the thing that was written on that page released him. Set him free. Right? I don’t know… what do you think was written on that page?
Little trivia? Rooney actually did write something on a page. And she actually did put it in the wall. And that not was actually lost when they demolished the house at the end of the film. Truly. Rooney is the only one who knows what’s on that page… HRMMM. Fascinating! hahah.
Edited by, CY
Okay, so, the exact nature of what is on the note is not that important since we see the effects of receiving the note. The questions to ask first before trying to figure out what content is on the note are: What is a ghost? Why does a ghost “haunt” a place? Why does a ghost linger? Is time immaterial for a ghost? The companion ghost in the movie states that she does not recall who she waits for, but when she realizes that those people aren’t returning, she disembodies. The protagonist ghost waits for decades or perhaps centuries. Would his wife actually still be alive? If she is not, where would she go? If he finally gave up all his remaining connections to the material plane, would he find her elsewhere? I think the note provided the answer he was waiting for.
That’s fair. I definitely don’t disagree with that sentiment. But the ADHD in me still wants to know. But I do find it funny that the crew wanted to know too but that Rooney wasn’t telling.
As for the companion ghost… did we see that ghost disappear? I never saw that happen. Oh, did you think that the two ghosts in the room together were two different ghosts, and not two incarnations of M? You really have me at a loss here now… because I don’t remember that she disembodied. Remind me of what you are referring to because this is definitely one of my late breaking obsessions.
The other ghost that he is referring to is the one that lived in the other house. When the houses were demolished, the other ghost realised that the person he was waiting for would not be coming back, and that epiphany set him free.
Thank you for this article! I really like the exploration of the different themes in this movie, and find them to be beautiful. I like your theory about lyrics being written on the note, that would be really meaningful.
Hey thanks Cas, But when in the movie was that… when did that happen… the end? Middle? Some context so I can go search for it. I’d love to see that happen again. I am just drawing a blank on that happening. As to the lyrics, personally, that would be what I would have wanted her to write. But that might just be fairly selfish too! hahah. who knows.
Anyway thanks for the comment! Taylor
The exact moment that this happens is after the middle of the movie, around 68 minutes. :)
Thanks! Want to see this!
I also think that the contents of the note are irrelevant.
My question would be – What set him free at the end? Was it the fact that after all this time he was able to read the note, whatever the contents, just to satisfy his curiosity. Or was it the text that was written there?
Following the explanation provided in the movie, that the universe will implode and start over eventually from a dust particle, I can interpret the whole story as him, driven by the force of his love alone, waiting whatever time it takes until the events align in the exact same way so he can see her again.
I just don’t understand the time travel bit where he was a ghost and made the sound on the piano, at a time when he was not actually a ghost yet.
I got two theories:
1- He loved that house, he said he and his wife had story together, so he couldnt rest in piece until he knows what is on the note, he just wanted to know if her wife had the same feelings about the house and their relationship and maybe she wrote something about it in the note.
2- “Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting” this is the quote we get at the beggining, it´s from A Haunted House from Virginia Woolf and maybe that was what was written in the note. Mara character loved literature, we can see a lot books through the house, including Love in Time of Cholera from Garcia Marquez, so maybe she was thinking about something to write a remembered that quote that represents her feelings about the house. Also at the end we got not a door shutting but a door opening.
Sounds like a very good theory all the way around to me. I’m fairly attached to the music lyric theory. But yeah, the quote could be staring us in the face, for sure.
I was so excited about this movie. I was not familiar with the director, but was expecting it to be a bit different, so I was mostly pleasantly surprised. I know it was meant to convey the impact of intimate moments, but I wish it moved just a bit faster in the beginning. I forced myself to stick with it because I hoped the payoff was there, and it was. The ghost in the next house seemed to me to be a female, mostly because of the flowers on the sheet, but it was also played by Kesha, so I assume the director was thinking the same thing. Not that it mattered. So what was on The Note. I agree with the director, it doesn’t matter because it was something that resonated with Roona’s character and wouldn’t have had the same impact. The mystery of it, and how it set Casey’s character (the Ghost) free makes it have more impact. The more why’s this movie makes us ask, the better because it is addressing the eternal existential crisis…why are we here, what happens to us, what does it all mean. Questions without answers, or at least the answer simply lies within all of us. This is a movie I most likely will only watch once more in my life, if even that. It makes you soak in the moments of the film so fully, and opens up so many questions, there really isn’t a need to see it often. If you paid attention…
It was played by kesha?!? Like Ke$ha Kesha!?! Wow. I totally dropped that ball didn’t I!?!? Hahah but that’s why I’ve got you guys!!
Oh no. I doubt I’ll watch again. But movies with this cadence are so rare. The original release of the film The Big Blue is the only other one coming to mind. Oh and Her. And Lost in Translation, and maybe Blade Runner amd 2049 and and… never mind! Hahaha.
I don’t know what it is about Lost in Translation, but I could watch that movie over and over. It has some magic spell that washes over me. This movie, the way it addresses the enormity of time. I am still pondering the ramifications of the time loop. Why did he come back around? Is the family of settlers related to Rooney Mara’s character? They were all killed, so I am trying to figure out how they could have been her ancestors. I am simultaneously reading The Snowman, This is Where I leave You, The God Delusion, and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams so my head might explode if I dwell on this movie too much more…LOL
You have the character’s names, C and M, mixed up. Casey Affleck’s character is C not M. M is the female character.
I believe she wrote, I shall never pass this way again! Or something to the affect…. Since the ghost across the street “proofed” when it realized “they” weren’t coming back. The girl’s last memories and feelings would have been sad,loss,life changing,depressing,and unbearable….which no one wants to go through on purpose. If it had been a lyric he probably would have not left. The bald guys whole theory was we continue in time through our mark on this world….wouldn’t it be the opposite of continuing if he’d had proofed then? Besides her listening to his song earlier proved that he had left his mark on her through his music.
The director said the note was destroyed with the house and nobody knew what she wrote, but he read the note at the end before the House was destroyed correct? So how was it destroyed? This makes no sense. They Filmed the scene of him reading the note before the House was destroyed obviously, then later destroyed the house I get that. Did he read a dummy note and leave the real note it the wall? Confused.
No one read the note. – 1 She wrote it. – 2 House destroyed.
End of story.
He read it at the end, right?
Sorry let me clarify what I am trying to understand. There seems to be a bit of a paradox in my mind regarding the comments made by the director about the note. Let me separate what happened in the narrative from reality, at least in my view.
In the narrative: She wrote the note, placed it in the wall, and as the first ghost he was just about to read it when the house was destroyed. So the note was apparently destroyed with the house, he never read it, but he came back later as the second ghost and retrieved the note and read it, obviously before the house was destroyed. So did he read the note or not? Obviously he did read it as the second ghost.
In reality: I read the directors comments about the note being destroyed so nobody knew what it said, but they must have filmed the scene where he read the note as the second ghost before they destroyed the house right? You cannot film a scene in another house, that would not make sense. So why would the director say nobody knew what the note said when Affleck clearly read it as the second ghost in the last scene before he vanished? Unless it was a fake note and they left the real one in the wall and destroyed the house.
Sorry this is just making my head spin a little :D
Thanks for explaining. I understand. I can only believe that when she placed the note in the wall it was either after the filming of him reading it, OR it was a different note that he pulled out of the wall. One of these two alternatives must be true based on what the director explained happened. But what do I know!?
It was a different note he read at the end. The original one she puts in the wall was actually destroyed. I think it was just a blank piece of paper at the end? Not sure, but I read about this in an article interviewing the director… http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/a-ghost-story-ending-director-david-lowery-explains-note-time-loop-1019600
Perhaps she writes: see you in next life or see you in Heaven (it seems like a small note so I figures not much words on it, and it is written when she moves on and moves out of the house, I am thinking it could be a moment for her to say goodbye to the past)… which makes him suddenly realize all the time he was lingering on the earth would never bring anything they had back (it seems he stubbornly believes she would move back somehow), since now they live in different dimension of time and space, no matter how he tried to affect the current “living” world, he could never be a part of it… maybe the only way to reunite with her again is to choose to move on as well, just like her, perhaps in the distant future their lives might cross again. The other ghost (with floral sheet) also waits for someone for way too long and she already forgets who that is… so the only reason she’s there is that she’s waiting. When she realizes the meaningless of that she relieves herself of it by being gone (perhaps to eternity, or heaven, well the world behind shinny glowing door which briefly opens in the hospital shortly after M becomes a ghost). So when M the ghost also realizes that the same happens (and they door opens for him again). I kinda love how they left it open for interpretation, but at the same time felt damn curious about the ultimate “truth” lol.
I’m sorry. C-the ghost… looks like I got the name wrong.
Movie starts with quote from A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf. C drops that book and M focuses reading its words “The treasure yours.” and little later, M writes a short note (like old rhyme or poem) about nice memory related to that house. I think I know exact words that she wrote.
What did the little pioneer girl write on the paper she tore from a book which she placed under a rock before she and her family were killed? Is there any significanc to this?
I guess, because there was a moment when an explanation is given for the ghost or soul to be free, when the ghost from the other house realized the person that he or she is waiting is not coming, puff!! It vanished. So the note should read something like that: I am not coming back… When the ghost read it, he realized she is not coming back. Ever. So he vanishes as well. That is my theory.
Maybe she writes her new address so he can find her. Or perhaps, since, when alive, he wanted to stay in the house and she didn’t, she says “I would have stayed” – so he now can go.
Hi there, for me after thinking a lot about this… She wrote “I forgive you”… Then he is free,
The story looped. He sees her leave as the moving van, seen through the window, pulls out of the driveway. He immediately digs for the note that he saw her insert before the loop. During the first loop he did not come close to digging out the note until several owners had come and gone. By the time he reached it the dozer showed up and he’d lost his chance. It was during the loop that he decided to go for it instead of waiting.
I understand the idea of involving the audience by using an extremely light touch but it is soooo slow at the start. Too slow. And the audio was so quiet that I couldn’t make out what she was saying; totally missing her saying something about leaving a note. I also found the dissertation by the guy at the table to be far less impressive than the party guests appeared to (before they resumed their partying). I think all of us have encountered a guy like that (as well as the same pontification) at least once. On the other hand, ending the 9th with a tossed beer can showed something. Overall, I thought it was a good movie, but it was lightweight fare for a ninety minute film.
I think everyone is off here. 3 ghosts: Casey Affleck, Prairie Girl, and Casey’s Wife. (identified by the color of their sheets: white, dirty white, and patterned) The timing/loops in the movie are everything. First Ghost we meet is Casey. Second, is the prairie girl in the other house. And third, fast fwd in time to the wife who comes back to the house to try to get her note. (She says earlier that she puts the notes there so that if she ever goes back she can retrieve them to remember herself).
Lot of other things going on, but you can fill in the blanks. By the way, watch the movie extras. In one of them it appears that it may have actually been the wife who hit him in the car! (when she gets out she is wearing the exact same clothes as when she is in the hospital morgue)
the movie was not slow kid, maybe it is too slow for you ;)
I think her message may have been a variation of some of the lyrics in verse 5: “I gotta turn it off (sorrow) and let go. I gotta make sense (of the rest of my life). Love you, M.” The next thing that happened was that she moved away. M realized the practicality of her message and moved on himself.
I think the door opens for him again because he’s in the loop of time….the 2 kids are going to be running to the room again like they did before. If you listen to the credits, you can here the kids laughing and talking like they did the first go around.
I connected more with a smaller point you made earlier in your article but didn’t hang on to through the rest of what you wrote. I think that the Ghost isn’t C, or at least isn’t exactly the spirit of C. I think that the Ghost is a part of M.
You called it the manifestation of her grief or the boulder she drug around. I’d say that the Ghost could be even more than just the grief – the Ghost is the ripple that he created in her life. To me, the Ghost and the note are the same thing. As M says “They were things I just wanted to remember so that if I ever wanted to go back there would be a piece of me there waiting.” She left both of them there. That is why the Ghost doesn’t leave.
All of this ties in with the drunken sermon by Baldy the Bearded. Something to the effect of “What if the point is to have an impact beyond yourself?” There are a number of circular references to this idea: – The Ghosts (obviously) – The Notes: Both M’s and the prairie girl’s – Beethoven’s 9th: The sermon (with soundtrack) is the most obvious reference. Before that the little boy is learning it on the piano. Then toward the end of the movie during C&M 2.0, C&M are shown the house by the realtor (who also delivers the pie?). C plays the tune on the piano when they first come in. *I might be off on one of these or missing another reference, but I’m pretty sure those three are right. I only watched it once and haven’t gone back to double check. I do know that I noticed before The Sermon that there had already been a number of references to that piece of music.
I don’t really think this is the “lynchpin” to understanding the movie. It is a beautiful film that provokes a lot of emotions and reflection. I don’t need to know that I understand it – I just enjoyed grappling with the feelings and questions that it evoked.
For a moment I thought that the little girl was M (she did write a note and hid it like M used to), as well as the ghost next door…but maybe I’m wrong and the little girl was just there to remind C of M, and the ghost next door was just there to show C that he could just “let go”
Did anybody think that the ghost in the other house was the little girl, and was also M? They both used to hide notes where they lived…
I haven’t seen anyone post the hospital scene where M ghost did not go into the “lighted” door in the wall? Obviously wasn’t ready to “leave” this earth and wondered back to his house? This was an interesting scene especially when we die tragically or suddenly. Not ready yet?
Ok so after reading all the comments I will go back and watch again. My take on the ending was completely different from everyone else…
Ok so my take on the ending was different from everyone else. I’ll have to go back and watch it again…
So I watched the movie again and my first impression still stands and here’s why. Near the beginning of the movie there is a scene that lingers a little too long where Casey and Rooney are in bed. Nothing is said. It seems as if the screen writers want to make sure we know nothing was said. When this scene is played over again at the end of the movie Casey clearly states twice, “We can go”, meaning he has decided to leave after all. In my opinion those words are the key to the whole movie. This starts a whole new sequence of events where he doesn’t have an accident because he wasn’t at that spot at that time again because they were preparing to leave. The second ghost at the end of the movie is actually Casey also. Why? Because in his quest to convince them to leave(by haunting the house and trying to scare them away) he maybe wasn’t successful the first time around, stilled died and had to go through the cycle again. That is why the first ghost is dirty and the second one is clean. He is the newer version. As she prepares to leave, we see clearly through the window her car. And as she walks to the door we see the moving van pull away. Who is driving the van you ask? Casey… He is still alive because he said “We can go” and they moved out. And finally to the question of what the note said. It said: “Thank God! He finally decided to leave…” Thats that’s my version, I like it best, and I’m sticking to it… :)
I think the note is about the dancing lights on that wall we see throughout the movie. She says she writes little rhymes or poems or things she liked about the house on those notes. We see her painting a totally different door at the beginning of the scene. She sees the lights dancing on the wall and rushes to grab some paper and begins painting in into the other door frame. I think it was one of the things she loved about the house despite it making her feel trapped and lonely while he was away. We don’t see what is on the note but they make a point to show those flares after he vanishes.
It’s about the beautiful dancing lights.
My analysis on the movie A Ghost Story, 2017: Edward Gomez
I apologize in advance, English is not my first language. I was amazed by the slow but very thoughtful pace of how the events develop, an eerie photography and a haunting music add to the sadness and frustration experienced by the main characters, M & C, in a nutshell ; a rumination of sadness and love eternally thru space and time. Excellent movie, one of the best in 2017 ! I say ‘eternally’ because this is one of those movies where the story starts as a linear plot, you think you are going from point A to B, then ¾s ahead of the movie you realize that the story cycles back in re-inserts itself into an eternal loop, a circle with no start and no end, a Möbius Strip This concept is very good exploited by Christopher Smith in 2009’s thriller Triangle, both stories have a lot in common and both have a pivotal point where the loop apparently starts and a both characters have a strong motivation. Let’s see, in Triangle the character played by Melissa George dies and she is offered the option to move on ( the taxi driver, supposedly the devil ), she rejects it thinking that she can go back and fix things, driven by an immense guilt feeling over the dead of her son and how she mistreated him and neglected. In the Ghost Story, C played by Casey Afleck is offered the option to move on into the next plane, heaven, purgatory etc, a glowing door appears for him to enter, he rejects it driven by love and a strong desire to reconnect with his wife. At the beginning of the movie the spectator is inserted into the middle of this circle, events have already been going on, in Triangle you see that many loops had already passed ( dead birds on the beach ), in the ghost story we can perceive that we are already in the loop, C complains about noises in the house , if you turn up the volume you will hear the scribbling and scratching on a wooden wall ( the ghost trying to dig up the note), someone making noises on a piano, strange bright lights etc, so there was a ghost already roaming the house, so C was already dead !, we are in the Nth loop. All of these hauntings were the reasons why M wanted to leave the house, C felt attached to it and he is destined to inhabit it forever. And the proof that it will continue is given at the end, when ghost # 1 disappears after reading the note, but ghost # 2 stays, he will roam around that house, will go thru everything that we saw for ghost 1, will go to the future, jumps back to the past and eventually will disappear as well. Another proof is that during the credits ( turn up the volume) and you will hear the Hispanic kids’ laughter, meaning that they moved ( the lady and her two kids ) to the house and the cycle will go on. We see that both ghosts see M leaving the house but only the #1 knows about the note ( #2 still doesn’t) and the one that disappears is our #1 by looking at the dirty and ragged sheets, #2 has clean sheets, fresh from the morgue. Eventually #2 will phase out and a new # 3 will appear, meaning that C will continue dying forever , the only way out of this eternal loop is to go thru the glowing door, i.e accepting and having the resignation to move on and let go. What was written in the note is irrelevant, it just serves as motivation for C to go back, remember that C knows about the note only after his death, while alive he never saw M writing it and the jump to the far past is just extra material, all this wild west mini-story doesn’t add anything to our ghost quest except that it presents a possible explanation why M liked to hide notes, maybe the little girl somehow reincarnated in her.
great discussion here. beautiful, tragic story. i’ve recommended it to people who i know will never watch it, which happens all too often. I feel like casey affleck’s character?
I was disappointed to hear that the writer didn’t intend this…. To me it was clear that the ghost in the opposite house vanished when it was clear that his loved ones would not return.
I thought she wrote “I love you but I have to leave you behind / move on with my life. Goodbye” or something similar which caused him to vanish because there was nothing to stay for. This, to me, was the most gut wrenching thing and a great way to end the movie in a powerful, sad but necessary way. Shame the writer didn’t intend this to be the story and didn’t have an answer in his mind.
However, I thought it was an excellent movie, really well done.
I think the ghost’s wife knew he was still lingering in their home. But she had to go. I think the note in the wall said, “I forgive you for dying. I will be OK. You are free now.”
For me the movie was slow at first and I almost turned it off. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t. It’s one of those things that’s going to haunt me for a long time. There are so many deep meanings that could be taken from this movie that I actually quite enjoyed reading all the theories in the comments. My husband fell asleep early on while watching it and he now doesn’t care what the deeper meaning of it was. I guess that will make him sleep easier tonight. This movie has me officially mind f*cked! In a way the movies like this mean more to me in the end because it’s one I will think about again and again and it’ll make me get “stuck in a loop” like the ghost. Please set me free!
I also think the note was from the song he wrote, but I don’t think it’s from the first verse. I think she wrote “Is my lover there?” I want to believe that’s what she wrote – when I read the lyrics this struck a chord with me and just seems to resonate with the rest of the movie.
For context, here is the last verse of the song:
Am I runnin late? I get overwhelmed All the awful dreams All the bright screens Is my lover there? Are we breakin up? Did she find someone else? And leave me alone?
I also believe that the ghost in the other house was the young prairie girl that was killed because that ghost didn’t remember who she was waiting for. That little girl died when she was what; 3, 4, 5 years old? Possibly a parent’s worst nightmare is to die when their children are young and then their children not remembering the parent as time goes by and they grow older. But I digress.
I would like to know what the significance was of the little prairie girl leaving a note under the rock which was way too similar to what the wife does. It couldn’t just be a random coincidence – it has to be related somehow.
I do agree though that it doesn’t matter what the note said, just the fact that he was able to retrieve it in the end is all that matters. Whatever was written there ultimately had no bearing on us but it did make the ghost wait hundreds of years just to read it.
Great movie and great comments up above. I really did not think the movie was too “slow”. I will recommend it to others and hopefully they can add a new perspective.
beautiful, tragic film. definitely left a significant mark on me, it was truly heartwarming but at the same time painful to watch.
I kinda feel like her note simply said . GOODBYE.
It’s likely the romantic in me, but I like to think that M really could feel C’s presence, and the note said something along the lines of “I can’t stay here without you anymore…. I’m moving across the street”…. because they are both in sheets, neither C nor M recognize each other. M has been waiting so long (possibly through several time loops), so she has forgotten who she is waiting for. She decides Whoever she is waiting for isn’t coming, and moves on. When C realizes that was M and she has moved on, he rushes to meet her in the afterlife.
A bit of a happy ending…. which is what I needed after the emotional journey of this film!!!! What a great flick!!
Why can’t the settler children see the ghost like the others did? And, if you watch the deleted scene, is that M in the gold SUV that kills C?
Isn’t Casey C and Rooney M? I think you got the names switched
I loved this movie, which touched on my own fear of dying and being stuck here instead of moving on. A lesson in letting go of what can no longer serve you in any way, and how we create our own despair, and become lost in it, alone. The film moved me to tears and I will be thinking about it for a long time. And I’m an American. Imagine.
I think she just told him he can go now
I got to watch the movie during this stupid quarantine time, Although I believe this is one of the most interesting movies I’ve ever watched. You will laugh, scare and cry during the movie and most of it, the soundtrack is breathtaking.
*** I Have a question about one of the musics though, I searched and searched everywhere I could but still cannot find it.
It’s an electronic song playing in the background while the guy in the party is talking about something like philosophy I guess! and then C becomes angry and it starts to signal the lights (time: 01: 04: 30)
Please Please help me to find the song if you have any idea, I’m dying for it!
Have you tried shazaming the song? Is it on the soundtrack?
Here is the official soundtrack for the film, A Ghost Story. Perhaps the electronic song you seek is included. I hope so. https://www.soundtrack.net/album/a-ghost-story/
Shazam does not recognize the song and no, unfortunately it is not in the official soundtrack list. Just like this one, I was killing myself to find another song in the Joker movie which also Shazam does not support and it is not in the soundtrack list. I am sure after my death I should wait so much time like C, finally find them and then disappear :) Thanks for the reply though.
On Reddit, there’s a subreddit for this. r/tipofmytongue Someone there should be able to help!
Shelby, I was totally going to say this exact thing. And if tipofmytongue doesn’t work, there are a million other subreddits that might be able to help as well.
Thanks Shelby, I’ll give it a try.
First time on here. Thanks for your review, Taylor. I just watched the movie today and loved it. Enjoyed everyone’s comments. Look forward to reviewing your archived material and bookmarking the site for future visits.
Nicest comment ever. Mr. Blue, you are welcome back anytime. Hahahah…
If you are looking for other movies like A Ghost Story – try Personal Shopper , I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House , and We’ve Forgotten More than We’ve Ever Known . Taylor
She told her husband before he died that she would hide a note in the house her family was moving from. Her husband asks her what she wrote on the notes and she tells him ryhmes and poems, things that helped her remember about her time there in that house so a piece of her could be waiting if she ever returned. He also asks if she ever went back and she tells him No, she never needed to.
When she finally moves from the house she shared with her husband, she leaves a small note and I think she wrote a quote from the book “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf. It is this book that her husband’s ghost made fall to the floor opened to a specific page which she takes time to read. I think she would have written a quote from this book, specifically the passages they show quick shots of, such as “He Left it, left her” or “The Treasure Yours” – both these passages are zoomed in. Anyway, that is my guess.
The note read…”Drink more Coke”
Perhaps the director didn’t show us what was on the note because we might be disappointed. For example: “Eggs, milk, bread . . .”
HAHAHaha.. “Don’t forget the flour”
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How to Write a Ghost Story
Last Updated: October 22, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Grant Faulkner, MA . Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the co-founder of 100 Word Story, a literary magazine. Grant has published two books on writing and has been published in The New York Times and Writer’s Digest. He co-hosts Write-minded, a weekly podcast on writing and publishing, and has a M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 218,880 times.
Many people enjoy a good ghost story and writing your own can be just as enjoyable. Ghost stories generally follow the patterns of other fictional work, focusing on a character and their encounters with a challenging force or event. However, ghost stories have a close focus on evoking feelings of terror and dread, building them up into a horrifying climax. Learning some of the ideas and techniques behind good ghost stories can help you create your own terrifying tales.
Developing Your Plot
- Think about which situations meeting a ghost would be most terrifying.
- Imagine the details of the ghost and how it haunts you, noting what scares you the most.
- Try watching your favorite horror films or reading other ghost stories to get inspired.
- What locations do you find disturbing or discomforting?
- Your setting should have a feeling of isolation, cutting the main characters off from help.
- Stasis. This is the introduction to your story and it demonstrates the normal life of your characters.
- Trigger. This event is something that pushes your character out of their normal life.
- Quest. This is where your character is given a goal or something they must do.
- Surprise. This will take up the middle section of your story and will be the events along the way towards your heroes goal.
- Critical choice. Your protagonist will need to make a hard choice that demonstrates their character.
- Climax. This is the moment your story was building up to and the most dramatic moment of the story.
- Reversal. This should be the consequence to your character's critical choice or the main challenge.
- Resolution. This point is where your characters return to everyday life but are changed from the ordeal.
- Write your outline in a chronological ordering of events.
- Don't leave any gaps in the narrative for your outline.
- Try to think about each scene and examine how they work together.
- If writing an entire ghost story seems overwhelming at first, try writing a 100-word ghost story to warm up. You get 100 words to write something truly creepy and unsettling. It takes less time, and you won't have to worry as much about outlining and pacing.
- Don't rush to reveal the confrontation or climax of your ghost story.
- Building the tension of the story slowly can make the climax even more intense.
Developing Your Characters
- Try to think of why your character is in the situation they are.
- Imagine how your character would react to the events in your story.
- Try to get a clear mental picture of what your character looks like.
- Your ghost will need a reason or motive for existing and doing what they do.
- Ghosts come in different forms, being more or less physical or having different powers.
- Foils usually have different personalities than the main characters in order to highlight the individual characteristics.
- Your supporting characters should also have their own unique qualities and personalities.
- Ask yourself what relationships these characters might have with the main characters of your ghost story.
Writing Your Ghost Story
- ”The ghost appeared and I was frightened” is an example of telling the reader what's happening.
- ”The ghost appeared and my stomach tightened up in knots. I could feel my face break out in a sweat and my heart trying to leap out from my chest.” is an example of showing the reader what's happening.
- For example, “The ghost was ten feet tall and exactly as wide as the door that it came through.” is probably too direct.
- Try saying something like “The ghost was enormous, making the room suddenly feel claustrophobic and tight.”
- Consider ending your story in a single sentence.
- Offering too much explanation at the end of your ghost story can lessen the impact of your ending.
Write Engaging Stories with this Expert Series
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- Setting is an important part of your ghost story that can either enhance or detract from the feelings of terror you are trying to evoke. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
- Think about what scares you the most and let those fears inspire your ghost story. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- Have a clear understanding of what and who your characters are. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
Things You'll Need
- Pen or pencil
You Might Also Like
- ↑ http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/the-horror-genre-on-writing-horror-and-avoiding-cliches
- ↑ https://www.writers-online.co.uk/how-to-write/how-to-write-a-ghost-story/
- ↑ http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-structure-a-story-the-eight-point-arc/
- ↑ http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/7-steps-to-creating-a-flexible-outline-for-any-story
- ↑ https://atomlearning.com/blog/6-ways-to-build-suspense-and-tension-in-writing
- ↑ https://mythcreants.com/blog/three-ways-you-can-use-description-to-mess-with-your-readers/
About This Article
To write a ghost story, start by thinking about what you find scary about ghosts. Additionally, since atmosphere plays a large part in ghost stories, imagine the creepiest location you can think of for the setting. Next, work on your story’s arc, which includes the introduction, the climactic moment, and the resolution. As you draft your story, think about what you want to show your reader and what you want to leave up to their imagination, since readers will automatically fill in details with their own mind. To learn how to finish your ghost story, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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A Ghost Story
- In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.
- Resonating with vibrant memories and silent echoes of a shared life, the old house is somehow connected to "C", a sensitive composer who is hesitant of leaving it, while his loving wife "M", on the other hand, is keen on moving out, having an indecipherable but grim premonition of danger. Sadly, disaster soon strikes, and C's untethered spectre which detaches from the lifeless body, rises from the mortician's table, and in a swift decision, decides to linger in this dimension to faithfully follow the grieving M back to the old house. As silent as a shadow and as invisible as the air, C's unappeasable phantom observes M's denial and depression gradually turn to acceptance and even hope, as time unravels, moving forward through the decades. In this earth, man struggles to leave his legacy behind. Is this the way to immortality? — Nick Riganas
- A musician lives with his wife in a small house in Dallas, Texas. She wants to move, but he does not. One night, they hear a bang on their piano but cannot find the cause. The husband is killed in a car accident in front of their house. At the hospital, his wife views his body and covers it with a sheet. The man awakens as a ghost covered in the sheet, and wanders through the hospital, invisible. He comes to a door of light, but turns away, and it closes. He returns to his house and watches his wife grieve as time passes. He sees another sheet-ed ghost inside the house next door; wordlessly, the ghost tells him that she is waiting for someone, but cannot remember who..
- Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife, only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. — yusufpiskin
- A musician lives with his wife in a small house in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She wants to move, but he does not. One night, they hear a bang on their piano but cannot find the cause. The man is killed in a car accident. At the hospital, his wife views his body and covers it with a sheet. The man awakens as a ghost covered in the sheet, and wanders through the hospital, invisible. He comes to a door of light, but turns away, and it closes. He returns to his house and watches his wife grieve over days and weeks. He sees another ghost inside the house next door; wordlessly, the ghost tells him that she is waiting for someone, but cannot remember who. When the wife comes home with a man, the ghost hurls books from the shelf and turns lights on and off. The wife listens to a song written by the man when he was alive. She decides to move out; before she leaves, she writes a note and hides it in a gap in a wall. The ghost picks at the wall but cannot retrieve the note. A family moves in. The ghost watches them eat dinner, play piano, and celebrate Christmas. The children are bothered by his presence, and the family move out after he hurls plates from the kitchen cabinet. At a party thrown by the next occupants, the ghost listens to a man describe how humans try to create a legacy, but everything is ultimately destroyed. The partygoers notice the lights flicker. The house becomes abandoned and derelict. As the ghost manages to remove a piece of the wall concealing the note, bulldozers level it and the house next door. The second ghost says she no longer thinks whoever she is waiting for is coming, and vanishes. The man's ghost watches as a skyscraper is built on the land. On the roof, he views a futuristic cityscape. He jumps from the edge and is transported to the 19th century, where a family of settlers are building a house. He watches as the family's young daughter writes a note and hides it under a rock. After the family is killed by Native Americans, the ghost watches the daughter become a skeleton enveloped by grass. Decades later, the ghost watches as his past self and wife move into the house. They argue about moving out. After the man tells his wife that he is ready to move out, the ghost sits at the piano, striking the keys and causing the noise that wakes the couple. As the wife moves out, the ghost sees his earlier ghost watching her leave. He manages to retrieve the note from the wall, reads it, and vanishes.
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A GHOST Story (Part 1)
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Chapter 1 Summary: “World Records”
A teenager named Castle Cranshaw lists several strange world records , including a woman who owned 5,631 rubber ducks. He believes that he has the record for buying the most sunflower seeds from Mr. Charles’s country store. After buying a pack, Castle goes to a bus stop and watches people through the front window of a gym across the street. He likes to watch the people on the stair-stepper machines and wonder who will pass out first.
Castle remembers his father watching football on TV, eating sunflower seeds. One night, when his father was as drunk as Castle had ever seen him, he shot at Castle and his mother, Teri, with a pistol. He was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Castle and Teri spent that night hiding at Mr. Charles’s store.
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Castle sees kids running on the track at the park and thinks, “Running ain’t nothing I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do” (7). He thinks that the night his father chased them was the night he really learned how to run.
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