A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story is a 2017 American supernatural drama film written and directed by David Lowery. It stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo, Rob Zabrecky, and Liz Franke. Affleck plays a man who becomes a ghost and remains in the house he shares with his wife (Mara).

A Ghost Story
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Lowery
Produced by
  • Toby Halbrooks
  • James M. Johnston
  • Adam Donaghey
Written byDavid Lowery
Music byDaniel Hart
CinematographyAndrew Droz Palermo
Edited byDavid Lowery
  • Sailor Bear
  • Zero Trans Fat Productions
  • Ideaman Studios
  • Scared Sheetless
Distributed byA24
Release date
  • January 22, 2017 (2017-01-22) (Sundance)
  • July 7, 2017 (2017-07-07) (United States)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.9 million[3]

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017, and was released by A24 on July 7, 2017.


A musician lives with his wife in a small house in Dallas, Texas. They are shown being happy together, and are shopping for a new home and planning their move. She tells him the last thing she has ever done while moving out of a place is to hide a note for only herself in case she ever returns. They occasionally hear strange noises in the house and comment on them. One night, they hear a bang on their piano (which came with the house, and he wants to keep), but cannot find the cause.

The next morning, 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. A door of light opens before him, but he doesn't step towards it, and it closes. He walks home and watches his wife grieve over time. He spots another sheeted 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 another man and kisses him, the ghost hurls books from the shelf and turns lights on and off. The wife later listens to a song written by her husband. She eventually decides to move out. Before she leaves, she writes a brief, possibly one-sentence note and hides it in a gap in a wall. The ghost picks at the gap but cannot retrieve the note.

A family moves in. The ghost watches them eat dinner, play the piano, and celebrate Christmas. He progressively becomes more agitated, while the children sense and are bothered by his presence. The family moves out after he hurls plates from the kitchen cabinet in anger. The second ghost continues to wait next door.

At a party thrown later by the next occupants, a partygoer delivers a philosophical monologue (the only lengthy spoken words in the film). The man says that remnants of the past, such as Beethoven's symphonies, will linger in the collective human memory long past the collapse of civilization. The man then describes the Big Crunch theory, which concludes that the entire universe will eventually collapse back into a single atom and begin anew. The partygoers notice the lights flicker.

The house eventually goes abandoned and derelict. Just as the ghost manages to slide the note out, bulldozers level the house along with the house next door. As they look at each other atop their houses' rubble, the second ghost says she no longer thinks "they're coming." The second ghost then immediately vanishes from under her sheet, which crumples to the ground.

The man's ghost watches as a skyscraper is built on the land. He is briefly shown walking through business settings before climbing to the roof, revealing a futuristic cityscape. The ghost jumps from the ledge and falls.

The scene then cuts to the ghost standing on empty land as a settler family is staking out the footprint of a home. He watches the family's young daughter, who is humming the song he wrote. She writes a note and hides it under a rock, akin to how his wife described doing as a child. The settler family are then shown dead after an attack, and the ghost watches as the daughter's corpse decays into the ground.

The scene cuts again to show the ghost back in the house, watching as his living self and his wife are seeing it for the first time, including the piano that has "always been here." As he watches over the couple, minor details are different from when he himself was alive, indicating that rather than moving backwards in time, he has moved forward, into a subsequent iteration of the universe. This time, the couple have discord, and the living husband is resisting the idea of moving out. The night before his death, his living self tells his wife that he is ready to move. The ghost sits at the piano and strikes the keys, causing the noise that startled them. Later as the wife moves out, the ghost sees his earlier self (now a ghost also, but unaware of the other's presence) watching her leave. He then goes to retrieve the note from the wall as before, and this time the note is close enough to the crack that he finally succeeds. Upon opening and reading the note, the ghost vanishes as his sheet crumples.


  • Casey Affleck as C
  • Rooney Mara as M
  • Will Oldham as Prognosticator
  • Sonia Acevedo as Maria
  • Rob Zabrecky as Pioneer Man
  • Liz Franke as Linda
  • Grover Coulson as Man in Wheelchair
  • Kenneisha Thompson as Doctor
  • Barlow Jacobs as Gentleman Caller
  • McColm Sephas Jr. as Little Boy
  • Kesha Sebert as Spirit Girl



During the spring of 2016, David Lowery began to write the screenplay for the film. He was scheduled for production after completing post-production on Pete's Dragon, his Disney live action film.[4] Prior to this Lowery had wanted to "for a while" make a film featuring a man in a simple rudimentary ghost costume, telling Comingsoon.net, "I just loved that image. I love taking something that is understood to be funny or charming or sweet or naive and instilling it with some degree of gravity." [5] Finally, the chance to use such a plot device came when he and his wife got in an argument about moving back to Texas. Lowery began to write down the argument "thinking about my own attachment to physical spaces." Combining both ideas he came up with the basic concept for the movie fairly quickly.[5] Lowery also used the film to work through what he termed "An existential crisis" brought on by reading an article about the possibility of a catastrophic earthquake. Lowery said, "I was not feeling optimistic about the future of mankind. I felt the world was on its way to ending. The film became my way of dealing with those issues."[6]

The project was officially announced in November 2016, confirming Mara and Affleck had been cast in the film.[7][8] It was later revealed Kesha would appear in the film.[9][10]

Affleck's costume was more difficult to deal with than Lowery was prepared for. At first the team attempted to simply use a normal bed sheet. They soon found that even a king-sized sheet would not fully cover a grown adult male.[11] The final costume required Affleck to wear other garments in addition to the normal fabric.[11] The team also found they had to resort to some "puppeteering" to keep the eyes in place.[11] Beyond the practical constraints of the costume, Lowery also found the simple costume impeded Affleck's ability to act, noting "every unique physical trait as a human being was pronounced and exaggerated by this sheet over his head." This did not give Lowery the results he wanted. Lowery eventually solved this problem by reducing the amount of movement so that "it became a matter of patience and posture and moving very specifically, slowly and rigidly."[11] Some shots of the ghost, specifically those done during pickups or reshoots, do not use Affleck at all, instead replacing him with the film's art director, David Pink, who was found to have a similar build.[12]


Principal photography began in June 2016.[13][14] A majority of the film is set within a single house, which was chosen by Lowery because it closely resembled the first house he lived in with his wife.[15] As the house was about to be demolished, the film crew were allowed to use it for free.[16] The project was shot in secret as they did not know how the final product would turn out.[17][18] Lowery chose to shoot the film in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, partially because he thought it was thematically appropriate for the film. "It’s about someone basically trapped in a box for eternity," he stated, "and I felt the claustrophobia of that situation could be amplified by the boxiness of the aspect ratio." [11]


Daniel Hart composed the score for the film as another collaboration with David Lowery. It was released by Milan Records on July 7, 2017.[19]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017.[20][21][22] Prior to the festival, A24 acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film.[23] It was released on July 7, 2017.[24]

Box office

The film grossed $104,030 from four theaters in its opening weekend for an average per-location gross of $26,008, finishing 26th at the box office.[25]


Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 91% based on 265 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.96/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A Ghost Story deftly manages its ambitious themes through an inventive, artful, and ultimately poignant exploration of love and loss."[26] On Metacritic, which assigns an average rating to reviews, the film holds a score of 84 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[27]

Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a positive review, writing: "While Lowery's actual method of delivery may not be scary, it's sure to haunt those who open themselves up to the experience."[28] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter also gave the film a positive review, writing: "A poetic meditation on time, memory and spiritual connection that is utterly true to its title."[29] Eric Kohn for IndieWire gave the film an 'A' rating, calling it "an extraordinary mood piece that amounts to [Lowery's] best movie yet."[30] Gary Thomposon of the Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film two and a half stars out of four and writing: "The movie is trippy and almost willfully opaque — all I can say for sure is I left A Ghost Story feeling full."[31]

Richard Brody, writing for The New Yorker, included A Ghost Story in his list of the decade's 27 best films.[32]


On September 9, 2017, the film won three awards at the 43rd Deauville American Film Festival – the Revelation prize, the Critics Prize and the Jury Prize. David Lowery was also nominated for the Grand Special Prize, although he didn't win.[33]

On October 14, 2017, the film won two awards at the Catalonian International Film Festival; Best photography and the Carnet Jove Jury.[34]

At the Fantasia Film Festival the film won the Camera Lucida Award.[35]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Boston Society of Film Critics December 10, 2017 Best Film Editing David Lowery Won [36]
Deauville Film Festival September 9, 2017 Revelation Prize David Lowery Won [33]
Critics Prize David Lowery Won
Jury Prize David Lowery Won
Grand Special Prize David Lowery Nominated
Fantasia Film Festival August 3, 2017 Camera Lucida Award David Lowery Won [37]
Georgia Film Critics Association January 12, 2018 Best Film A Ghost Story Nominated [38]
Best Original Song "I Get Overwhelmed" Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society January 6, 2018 Best Original Song "I Get Overwhelmed" Nominated [39]
Texas Independent Film Award A Ghost Story Won
Independent Spirit Awards March 3, 2018 John Cassavetes Award A Ghost Story Nominated [40]
National Board of Review January 4, 2018 Top Ten Independent Films A Ghost Story Won [41]
Online Film Critics Society December 28, 2017 Best Picture A Ghost Story Nominated [43]
Sitges Film Festival October 14, 2017 Best Cinematography Andrew Droz Palermo Won [45]
Carnet Jove Jury Award David Lowery Won
Sundance Film Festival January 22, 2017 Audience Award David Lowery Nominated [46]


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