Originally I was intrigued by Manchester by the Sea because of the stir created by reviews of Casey Affleck’s performance. (for example: “This is the ‘Casey Affleck show’ from beginning to end; you can just give him the ‘Best Actor’ Oscar right now and save everyone a whole lot of trouble.” —Lord moo_23 from Canada)
I have no experience evaluating film and no business trying. Yet here I am. I need to write about Manchester by the Sea.
It’s not an entertaining movie. It doesn’t wrap up nicely. No one rides into the sunset or lives happily ever after.
What happens is you find yourself in an honest space filled with honest characters and a pace that encourages lingering, like walking slowly through an art gallery.
It sits high in a lovely frame of what films are capable of. But it also looks you in the eye. It tastes like a succulent meal and makes you embarrassed for all the big macs you ate.
Manchester by the Sea in simple terms is breathtaking, heart-breaking, brutal, beautiful, real, and flows gently between the two banks of hope & despair.
But hands down, my favorite word for this movie is: honest. The corridors of this film are large, and every single inch is honest. I don’t know how writer & director, Kenneth Lonergan, did it. Mr. Lonergan, I know this means nothing coming from me, but you sure wrote one hell of a story.
He also rolls it out like art. I have never left a movie and felt as if I’d just slowly walked through an art gallery, and that’s exactly how I felt. So many pieces connected with me. Some pieces were filled with sorrow and heartbreak, some bleeding with grief and letting go, and some were so wrong and too much to bear…yet all of them were beautiful.
Thankfully, the movie keeps the audience at a safe distance. We’re invited to watch, but not too closely. It felt as if the characters’ vulnerability was drawing you in, but the music and camera angels were taping off the borders: you can come this far, and no farther. I’m curious how others felt about the distance, but I appreciated it. Had the music or the camera angles invited me to take a closer look, I think I would have drowned.
Because we are invited in, but only so far, and because what we’re observing is so true, although it is sad, it’s also sweet. I think that’s why it lingers. The fragility of humanity is sweet and sad mixed together.
Thank you to everyone who played a part: cast, crew, production, art house extraordinaire, for sharing Manchester by the Sea with me. I’m grateful.