November 27, 2016

Manchester By The Sea

A powerful, heart-wrenching, near-operatic tragedy, with some reason to hope sprinkled near the end.
Casey Affleck is outstanding as our tragic protagonist Lee Chandler, doing his best to cope with adversity at every turn. When his brother dies, Lee must return to his hometown and reconnect with his nephew Patrick as they grieve in tandem, while Lee is confronted with the skeletons he left behind.
Kenneth Lonergan meticulously wrote and directed an almost impressionistic operatic tragedy. We are allowed to put the pieces together on our own with a minimum of exposition. Except for one key emotional confrontation between Lee and his ex-wife (see photo), the important emotional moments are never discussed.
The cast is so authentic, they feel like they were pulled from the upper deck of a Bruins game.
Lucas Hedges is strong as the 16-year-old Patrick, and Michelle Williams is powerful as Lee's ex-wife.
Our only complaint was the score- the classical and operatic music cues are often intrusive and distracting, almost like they're trying to force the emotional point that the drama is already making. One scene, during a moment of good news, is set to a jaunty jazz score straight out of a Woody Allen movie!
I grew up in Boxford, about 15 miles west of Manchester By-The-Sea (my adolescence also closely resembled The Ice Storm*) so I can tell you this film is the most accurate depiction of wintertime in New England I've ever seen: bare trees, it snows a little bit every day, piles of snow that have melted and re-frozen, and one all-too-familiar scene where Lee and his nephew are stuck outside with no winter coats - New England winters are so long we get tired of wearing heavy coats and just give up after awhile. Lonergan sprinkled landscapes as seen from the road throughout, and he picked great exteriors that show off the unique villages of New England. This is a terrible movie to see in November as the winter snow is about to arrive! The last scene in the film takes place in April, and they shot one scene outdoors during that narrow window when the trees just begin to bud. I truly appreciated this attention to detail.
Really worth the trip. The movie will leave you with plenty to think and talk about.
Essential viewing. My grade: A.
Thanksgiving weekend with Emily at Fenway Screen 9, 7pm (movie started at 7:20) - thanks to Debbie D for babysitting!
*Coincidence: I saw The Ice Storm 19 years ago this week.