The good things (what I liked)
- I liked the coldness and clarity of the movie. If you haven’t watched the movie, and you watched the trailer, forget everything you saw! This is not one of those cases where the trailer is better than the movie, it’s just that it gives a wrong idea of the movie. This is not a feel good movie! This is not “Educating Helen”, this is not the movie Rachel’s sister, Amy, describes on Friends’ Thanksgiving episode, season 9 (I’m sorry, couldn’t help it). Here you don’t see the typical story of the black sheep of the family getting his dead brother’s child, and using this to be a better person or anything. I mean, it sort of is, but at the same time not in the way one would expect. This story is raw, realistic, deeply human.
- Most people, at least before this film, only knew Ben Affleck. But, Casey Affleck’s performance was definitely the highlight of the film. The whole movie had great acting, however, Affleck stole the show.
- One shouldn’t ignore, however, the power of Michelle William’s scene (you know which I’m talking about). She was only in about 5 scenes throughout the whole movie, but that scene could very well win her an Oscar.
- The music is incredible in this movie. Incredible! It helps so much to the overall tone of the movie, and I really enjoyed it. Sometimes, I would stop paying attention to the scene to pay attention to the music. It was great! Game of Thrones episode ten, season six great>
- The dialogues in this movie are really good, and most characters are well created, and you can know them through the way they talk.
- Lee is a pretty good protagonist, in the sense that even though it’s hard to like him sometimes, rarely do we judge him. I understood why he did the things he did.
- The ending, although really unsatisfying, was very realistic.
- The scene with Patrick and the freezer, and how that connects to his father’s body, was perfectly crafted. How Patrick had said a couple of times by then the same phrase of not wanting his dad to be in a freezer and then saying it again, but crying… it was excellent.
The bad things (what I didn’t like)
- Okay, so what is it with this year and its frontrunners (Moonlight and this one, at least)? Didn’t the writers take a class in plot development? I won’t spoil anything about Moonlight, although I already did a post on that movie, but there is just so much going on here! And it’s terrible. Couldn’t they just make a movie about either a father accidentally killing his daughters or a man getting his dead brother’s son? There is just too much going on here, and what’s more, the B story (Lee killing his daughters) seems to be more emotionally devastating than the A story (Lee getting Patrick). Also, you have a mother who abandoned her son, a mother who’s also an alcoholic, a man’s divorce and depression, a town’s irrational (and somewhat forced and unrealistic) hate towards a man, a couple of relationships, and a rusted, old boat. The movie just should’ve chosen one of the two stories. Personally, I feel as if the writers were more interested in writing the B story (Lee’s past life), and just had to write the A story as an excuse to write the other one. I know it should be the other way around, but most of the movie’s best scenes belong to that B story (Randi kicking out Lee’s friends, Lee describing what he did to the cops and then trying to kill himself, Lee running into Randi on the street), so it leads me to believe the writers were more intrigued by that story than Patrick’s.
- You know how you can know when a character’s emotional question is not very well-developed? When the characters react in a specific way towards something, particularly strong reactions like crying or getting into fights or having destructive behaviors, is it clear why they’re doing so? In this movie, you never know the character’s emotional questions, conflicts or dilemmas. For example, take Lee when he’s crying: is crying because he got divorced, or because he lost his daughters, or because his brother died, or because he’s now in charge of Patrick?
- The characters are too static. I think this may have been intentional, and in a way, I enjoyed the fact that most of the movie wasn’t overly sentimental, but after something like this hits you, you have to change, at least a bit. And these characters (Lee and Patrick) don’t change at all. Patrick still sleeps with both his girlfriends (something he did since before his dad died, so there’s no reason to believe it’s a change in his character) and Lee still gets into fights. Why don’t they change? If not by the death of a loved one, by each other? By the end, I was left asking myself a simple question: “And… so what?” This is probably the worst thing someone can ask him or herself after watching, reading or listening to art. If you don’t see the point of it, if you don’t understand why a story had to be told, then it utterly failed. I understand sometimes characters must be static because that would be the reality of someone in their situation (for example, with most Raymond Carver stories you see this, or with Fiona on Shameless, US version), but in this case, it was a bit unbelievable.
- The whole thing with Patrick and his mother was totally unnecessary. Totally. And that dinner scene was simply horrible, unrealistic and, once again, unnecessary. I get they needed to take the mother out of the picture for Patrick to go to Lee, but still, it was an incredibly forgetful B story.
- Also, Patrick and Lee seem too similar. Almost as if the writers couldn’t write two different type of characters, so they wrote the same one twice.
- Finally, I don’t want to sound mean, but Patrick was such a horrible character. He was so easy to hate. This is probably a good thing because he is a teenager who only thinks of sex and sports (even during the worst of times) but I put in here because God I hated him all throughout the movie! Also, the actor didn’t pull off the Jock-Heartbreaker-D*ck act. Just saying.
Who would I (or wouldn’t I) recommend it to
I’d recommend this movie to anyone who likes real, dramatic yet not melodramatic movies that can make you cry, to anyone who likes The Oscars and to anyone who likes family dramas.
Best scene or dialogue (if there was any that stood out)
- Although the movie as a whole isn’t great, it had great scenes. Probably my favorite was when Patrick opened the fridge and all the frozen meat falls, and he tries to pick it up, and it falls again, and he tries to close the door and it can’t close, and then he hits his head. Finally, he ends up crying. This was one of the best scenes of this year’s movies. If scenes could win Oscars, that scene would be one of my favorites. It was so real and devastating. Personally, I can say this has happened to me when you’re having a really bad day, and then something really small happens and you can’t get it right, and you just start crying or screaming or something. I can really relate.
- Another favorite was the whole scene when Lee tells the cops what happened, and then he tries and kills himself. Everything was on point on this scene! The music, the acting, the character psychology, the dialogues… The way he asked if they were really letting him go as if in a way wanting to get punished, and the way he said everything so coldly and realistically… It was great.
- Finally, that scene with Michelle Williams. Even on the trailer, you know that scene is going to be great. It might even win her an [extremely deserving] Oscar.
Who stole the show?
Casey Affleck. No questions asked. Yes, Michele Williams gave a great performance. But her hard scene was literally one minute. The rest of her scenes (which incidentally were only like 4 other scenes) were rather easy. He was the emotional core of the movie, and he pulled it off.
Do I predict this movie will have any actual nominations?
Yes. And even win some of them. Maybe has a shot for Best Movie, but probably will just win in the acting category (at least one of them has to win either Best Actor or Best Supporting Actress), maybe screenplay, and a couple of other ones. I don’t think this movie will be the night’s biggest winner, but I don’t expect them to go empty-handed.
“Manchester by the Sea” is not the year’s best movie and it tried to take on more than it should’ve, nonetheless it has a clear, minimalist and generally realistic script that, even if far from outstanding, is strengthened by a tactful cinematography, exceptional performances, and a memorable score. And let me just say this: after this movie, Casey Affleck will never again be thought of as “the other Affleck”.
How many stars?