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A Ghost Story

Rooney Mara stars in a scene from the movie "A Ghost Story." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.(CNS photo/A24)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- "A Ghost Story" (A24) could be the best film about purgatory you'll see this year.

That depends, of course, on whether you think that purgatory is the state in which Casey Affleck's recently departed character exists. Writer-director David Lowery hasn't attempted a story about religion specifically or spirituality generally, but rather has made a reflection on loss.

Still, there is a case to be made for the idea that Affleck is undergoing purgation. His silently querulous, shrouded spirit, looking like one of Charlie Brown's trick-or-treaters with cut-out eyeholes, needs to fulfill a task in order to set things right with someone or something and thus be released from his earthly bonds.

In that, the story adheres to a formula of after-death second-chance journeys that, done in a lush fashion, became 1990's "Ghost," the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Carousel" and, in the old days of Hollywood, films such as "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" or "A Guy Named Joe."

Lowery has taken a very minimalist approach, though, with exceedingly long takes and a ghost who, although he sometimes can rattle a bookshelf or toss crockery around, is otherwise incommunicative -- except to another ghost next door, with whom he speaks telepathically.

The result is often confounding, but viewers will find it difficult to rid themselves of the imagery.

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