Manchester by the Sea

2016 Best Picture nominee

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Batman's little brother mopes around for a little over two hours.

The thing I most liked about this movie was how all these little moments of shocking human tragedy, none which I'll get into for fear of spoiling the movie, are interrupted by all these little awkward occurrences that remind the viewer that human beings are absurd creatures. Awkwardness keeps getting in the way of drama, and the first time it happened (maybe not chronologically the first time), I thought it was just clumsy writing. But when it kept happening, I realized that it was intentional and thought it was an interesting stylistic touch.

The movie isn't chronological. There are numerous flashbacks that gradually reveal a story-beneath-the-story, reminding me of the structure of We Need to Talk about Kevin which I just saw recently. For whatever reason, it didn't quite work for me. Things felt manipulative here, and as harsh as it might make me sound, I just had a difficult time caring about any of these people. You know early on that something terrible and maybe even tragic has happened with Casey Affleck's character, and then when it's revealed, you just kind of shrug and think, "Yeah, that's what I figured."

Part of that might be the acting. I thought Affleck was just adequate, good enough to make me believe in the character with a little work on my part but nothing I can see anybody gushing over. His present-day character really only has a single gear except for a couple times when he jumps from first to fifth and starts swinging at people in bars. So before the most tragic of the flashbacks is given to us, you are kind of comfortable with his ennui and melancholy, making it a little harder for that tragedy to resonate. It also didn't help that there's not enough to build up the relationship Affleck's character has with the pieces at the heart of that tragedy. Common sense or personal connections have to be utilized to feel anything, and maybe I was just too emotionally tired to put in the work.

It probably doesn't help that the nephew was a bit of a prick.

Anyway, this isn't a bad movie at all, but it's disappointing for a Best Picture nominee.


cory said...

Grrr. I wrote a long comment about the nephew and Affleck reflecting how some tragedies can be overcome and others are permanently devastating. I liked Affleck, was distracted by Broderick, and thought Williams and the scene near the end may have been the best of the year. And then there was more deep thoughts about stuff. I gave it a 17 and then watched by review get eaten. Grrr.

Shane said...

Hmm. I have your comment in an email. I'll copy and paste it in here next time I'm with a computer.

Shane said...

Cory's original comment:

Affleck's performance is very internalized and either that works for the viewer or it doesn't. Trying to decode what was going on with him was interesting and moving. The pressure of his pain and self-destructiveness building to inevitable violence helped make him a character that I cared about, especially when you can see how radically the revealed events have changed him. I liked the nephew and the occasional relief and levity his different perspective brings to the film. He also has reason to be damaged, but "Manchester..." does a great job in comparing tragedy that can be overcome versus tragedy that will never stop being devastating. It made the movie relatable and real. I could have done without the distracting Matthew Broderick, but the rest of the cast is perfect, especially Michelle Williams in a smaller but heartbreaking role. There was a scene with her and Affleck near the end that may have been the best of the year. Any parent can sympathize with the situation presented here, and "Manchester by the Sea" asks us to question and understand how hard life can be when things go so wrong. A 17 for this beautiful and understated drama.

Shane said...

I doubt I even disagree with anything you said there. I just didn't like the movie or the performance as much.

Matthew Broderick really was distracting.

cory said...

Thanks for finding the original comment and relieving my frustration. Maybe you would have liked this more if it had more farts (*_*)

Shane said...

Hey, now...