I'm going to preface this review by saying that the person I went to the movies came out of the movie and said, 'That was SOOOOOOO slow."
Half of me wanted to ask if we were in the same movie. The other half wanted to ask if she got the point of the film. I let it go. It was late in the evening and this particular friend and I have different ways of viewing films. She has a tendency to nit pick. Just the way it is.
I tend to look for the good.
And this is very good.
The other comment I'll make is I was discussing this film with another friend over breakfast the next morning and we saw the same film. We identified the same things. We were blown away by the same scenes. We were taken with the rawness of the script, the music, the performances, the truth that lies behind the film. I was also very taken with Manchester, Massachusetts - I have been up that way, so it's scenery with which I'm familiar. I was in awe of this movie.
I suspect some people will find it slow, like my friend. Then again, you write a film which is predominantly an exploration of grief, loss and understanding, you don't expect it to run like the 'Da Vinci Code" or some other action filled blockbuster.
This is not a film for everybody. Like my friend. I would also put in a caveat and say this isn't a film you want to see if you've suffered a recent bereavement or aren't in a great state of mind. For a lot of this film, things are pretty grim for all concerned.
"Manchester by the Sea" is phenomenal, but somewhat hard-going in a lot of places. It's not easy viewing at times, and it has a sucker punch attached to it in numerous places that can, and will take your breath away.
The story is fairly simple. Lee, exquisitely played by Casey Affleck, is a janitor living on minimum wage in Boston. He is called back to Manchester MA, his home town, on the death of his brother, where he is the nominated custodian of his 16-year-old nephew.
From the beginning, you work out that Lee has no desire to be in this town. At all. Ever. And the town's people aren't really that happy to see him, but are okay with him, under the circumstances, having to come back and to look after his parent-less nephew.
What follows is just over two hours of the story of how Lee comes to work out why Lee doesn't want to be in Manchester - shown in flashbacks, as well as how he will get out of the dilemma of having custody of his nephew, Patrick.
I won't say much more about the plot - not knowing makes this all the more better.
The performances are outstanding. Casey Affleck, no matter the controversy, deserves his Oscar nomination. He's wound up like a cheap watch for the whole film and once the true reason for his behaviour is shown, you understand why. Lucas Hedges is outstanding as Patrick, the fatherless, motherless boy who's dealing with the joys of adolescence. There is one scene of Michelle Williams, playing Lee's ex-wife that is mind-blowing - and one again deserving of the Oscar nod - and I really hope she gets it. She is incredible in this. Cameos from Gretchen Mol, Matthew Broderick and Kyle Chandler round out this film. Oh, and Patrick's band - FABULOUS.
The other thing I loved about this film was the scenery - Massachusetts being a US State I have visited in the past. The haunting use of Handel's choir music is also apt and atmospheric.
"Manchester by the Sea" is a film that you'll think about for days. It's not a particularly happy film, although there is a bit to snort about, particularly watching Patrick navigate the joys of being a teenager.
Coming out of this film was similar to when I came out of Calvary.
This is so worthwhile, despite the hard themes.Hats off to all concerned. This is a masterpiece.