I wasn’t being able to decide which movie I should watch today because I was in a really neutral mood. So, I just randomly picked this one up.
Okay, it wasn’t that random. I know this movie is up for the Oscars in the best picture category. I know Casey Affleck is in it. So it was kind of a conscious but random choice. Don’t worry, even I don’t know what does that mean.
So Manchester by the Sea is about Lee Chandler(Casey Affleck) who works as a janitor in Boston. On knowing that his brother Joe Chandler(Kyle Chandler) has passed away, he reaches Manchester to do the needful only to know that his brother had left his son, Patrick(Lucas Hedges) in his guardianship. It’s a story about fighting your own demons and fears and taking hold of your life in the face of change. I was going to use the term adversity, but it didn’t feel like an adversity, so I used change. It’s more appropriate, I think.
Lee Chandler feels a lot like Bill Burr. You know, the stand-up comedian. I listen to his podcasts and he is an amazing guy and he has a way of normalising everyday things and gives a dark comedic spin on everyday stuff. Lee uses expletives in situations where everybody expects him to be subtle about it but that just shows how real he is and how plainly he sees life. I really liked the characterisation of Lee Chandler because his take on things were a lot similar to how see things and yes, that resonated with me.
This is evidently one of the best films I have seen because it has no gimmicks and escape-routes to engage the audience in any other way. I have to say, Kenneth Lonergan’s writing is very tight. He keeps the movie so so grounded through the dialogues and the setups for each of the scene. One of the many things that should be appreciated about this movie is the shift in tone. The shift from dark humour to complete seriousness. It was very well executed.
Everything in this movies is just placed so beautifully. Exposition is handled so beautifully through the use of well-placed flashbacks. The flashbacks didn’t just serve as a way of showing the past but also as a tool to show what frame of mind Lee is in. It also lays out the foundation of Lee’s relationship with his brother, Patrick, his wife and also Joe’s wife. There is a line in the first scene of the movie, which can be used to describe the use of the flashbacks. There Lee says “I do things better because I can see it all laid out like a map”. So Kenneth uses this flashback to lay out the map so that we can understand the psyche of Lee and how he is feeling and what exactly is he thinking.
If the movie would have been showed in a linear format with no flashbacks, it could have been great but we would be sympathising with Lee all the way. That emotion wouldn’t have allowed us to laugh through the funny moments, probably. Maybe you could have, you sadist but I couldn’t have, that’s for sure. Also, there wasn’t any fancy cinematography or camera usage but the placement of the characters in the frame and the lighting of the scenes established the mood in a much more subtle but effective way.
I don’t think I can say enough about the acting performances. Everyone was just phenomenal in their respective characters. I have always loved Casey Affleck and wouldn’t be so great if Gosling, Gyllenhaal and this guy would do a film together. It would be a treat for the senses. Lucas Hedges was really good. In this movie his character his banging the girl from Moonrise Kingdom. Sam would be so sad.
I was so involved in the film, and even though we didn’t see what had happened between Lee and Randie but Lee’s shift to Boston and his isolation from society did give a hint at what had happened. So even though Michelle Williams had that one scene where her character meets Lee, it was as if I knew what has happened between them. The dialogue was minimal but Michelle really just nailed that scene. Why the hell doesn’t she do more movies! All in all, everyone was just brilliant. No complaint in the acting department.
FINAL VERDICT – There is a particular scene. Trust me, I am not spoiling anything. It’s where Patrick goes to meet his mother. The tension was so much in that scene, I was biting nails because I was afraid that it will turn out to be an out and out murder fest.
Okay, I don’t want to speak too much about this movie because I might just end up giving out some spoilers. Don’t worry about the run-time of the movie. You won’t even notice it. I will just urge you to watch this movie. It’s a simple and grounded movie and full of emotions that you can relate to and without doubt, one of the best movies of 2016 and a perfect film in my opinion.
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