After agreeing with my boyfriend that we would not buy each other Valentine’s Day presents, you can imagine my guilt when I open the boot of his car to find a bouquet of roses. So, a trip to the cinema was due.
I knew nothing of this film. I hadn’t seen a single trailer, read a single review or heard any of my classmates talk about it. I had no expectations (apart from award winning acting from Casey Affleck) so I was diving straight into the deep end completely blind.
From a filmmaking point of view – I’m impressed. I felt the overall story was realistic, written perfectly to convey this realism, and the characters held up this theme expertly.
The theme of the film was grief and loss. Affleck’s character Lee is forced to return to his home town to take care of his nephew. This town holds many demons for him and the film revolves around exposing his past. Sometimes I feel the theme of a film can be debated but during Kenneth Lonergan’s script it seemed obvious. He handed the delicate subject with ease and not once did I cringe at forced and unrealistic dialogue.
I feel this is what I admired most about Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea. During the usual scenes you see in melodramas, the dialogue can get samey, cringey and ultimately boring – we see and hear it too much. “I’m sorry for your loss” – etc. However, what Lonergan does to get around this is mute the scene and replace it with dramatic music. The emotional plinks from the piano tell the audience everything they need to know without patronising them with simple dialogue. I personally found this extremely refreshing.
Yet, don’t get me wrong, the dialogue that we do hear is fantastically written too. The relationship between Lee and Lucas Hedges’ character Patrick is beautifully touching to watch. Their characters are so real and raw that I can’t help but soak up the acting and atmosphere. I am willing to make the claim that these are the best formed characters in cinema I have seen this year – and probably last year too. I’m so unbelievably happy that Affleck nicked the title of best actor from Ryan Gosling because he truly and utterly deserves it.
However, taking out all of the technical critiques, taking my filmmaking head off for a moment, I have to admit I wasn’t overly impressed with Manchester By The Sea. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for a drama and wanted more of an escapist film like action but I left the cinema wishing I had rather stayed in.
After sitting on this review for nearly a week now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the film was just too real for me. Although I can admire things and understand creative decisions, I’m only human and I want a happy ending. I understand why the film ended the way it did but it just wasn’t what I wanted to see. I wanted growth from the characters, a sense that things have changed, some closure that Lee was okay. But I was left feeling empty. I wanted something more.
Furthermore, I feel a film as instantly failed if you are aware of time passing when watching it. More than once I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable, bottom falling asleep, and wondering how long I had been stuck in the dark. Even my boyfriend admitted there was no need for it to be over 2 hours long.
Overall, I feel this is a film I would love to study in my uni class as I would have so much to say, but, inevitably, I would not watch it again for pure enjoyment. Sometimes life doesn’t have a happy ending but I would at least like to pretend.
So maybe next Valentine’s Day I’ll just make sure I get my boyfriend something.