Manchester by the Sea
2016 Best Picture nominee
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.