December 22, 2016

Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan, 2016
Any New Englander is going to feel a sense of familiarity to Manchester by the Sea. It's a movie filled with characters constantly battling the cold temperatures, something we are all used to dealing with in the Northeast. But these characters, while possibly making the mistake of dressing a little too lightly, are tough people. They have endured. There is a sense of resilience. These are working class people who are dealing with the difficulties of ordinary life. Loss of a loved one, past mistakes, struggling to make that next dollar.

Casey Affleck is a proper casting choice for the Lee Chandler character because he's not a very external actor. Lee is not a very external character. Lee bottles things up. He carries the weight of his past on his back. The only release for him is the occasional bar-fight that can be provoked by something as simple as accidentally bumping into him. So it's safe to say he's a man on edge. He becomes a profoundly sympathetic character when more of his past is revealed during the films constant flashbacks. There's just so much nuance to his character, along with the other characters in this film. Kyle Chandler, who plays Lee's brother Joe, brings the same level of consistency that he always brings. Chandler is really one of those actors that is always just dependable. Michelle Williams continues to prove how unbelievably good she is. She has this ability to pull a reaction out of you with little dialogue. She's all in with her supporting performance as Randi Chandler. The standout scene with her being an alleyway confrontation with Lee that dares you to not tear up.

This is a movie where you can't point fingers. Everyone is struggling in some way or another, just like normal folk do. There is a defining turning point in the tone of this film that you never fully recover from, even after the end credits. That's why it takes such an emotional toll on you. Because this is a real movie, maybe too real. You aren't spoon-fed a Hollywood ending here. This film ends just like life goes on. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't, sometimes it's neither. Sometimes things just keep on keeping on. You just continue to exist in the world, with no choice but to carry the entirety of your history with you.

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