Tuesday, 29 August 2017

MIDWEEK MOVIES - MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” - Plato 

Last weekend we watched film, which could have been better had the writing and editing been a bit tighter and the film cut a little more energetically. As it was, at 137 minutes, it dragged on somewhat, and given its rather “heavy” subject matter it tended to tire viewers rather than lead them into sympathetic introspection and involvement with the plot and characters. Perhaps this was because the writer and director were the one and the same person and self-indulgence ultimately won the day. It was nevertheless a film that we shall recommend for viewing (with reservations).

Manchester by the Sea (2016) Drama – Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan; starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges. – 6/10


Lee Chandler (Affleck) is a brooding, irritable loner who works as a handyman for a Boston apartment block. One damp winter day he gets a call summoning him to his hometown, north of the city. His middle-aged brother Joe (Chandler), who has had a heart disorder dies suddenly, and Lee has been made guardian of Patrick (Hedges), his 16-year-old nephew. As if losing his only sibling and doubts about raising a teenager weren’t enough, his return to his home town and the re-awakening of the past opens old wounds and makes him ultimately face an unspeakable tragedy that he has suppressed and marginalised for years.

The pace of the film is slow and laboured, and no doubt will depress some viewers who may choose to leave it half-watched. Flashbacks are used constantly, partly to reveal the reasons for Lee’s moroseness and loneliness, but also for dramatic effect. As a consequence, the story starts and stops, backtracks and then hardly advances, making for a weak screenplay. Flashbacks are a devil of a thing to get right… If you’re expecting fast action, car chases, thrills and spills, this is not the film for you. Yes, it is a psychological drama (even perhaps a melodrama as some clichés are used liberally – the use of music for dramatic effect I found a little heavy-handed), and thus prepare to be taken down into the dark depths.

However, it’s not all bad and towards the end as the film reaches a climax, the tragedy of the past is revealed, but somehow the protagonists remain strangely remote and cold, and Lee fails to be transformed or change positively as one would have predicted given the subject matter of the film. Affleck acts well enough for the needs of the script and Hedges is OK. The rest of the cast works well enough with what they’ve been given.

A tad pretentious perhaps, overlong and repetitive, melodramatic and slow, overflashbacked and with an anticlimactic end that leaves the viewer unsatisfied, why on earth would one watch it, I hear you ask. Well, it’s hard to answer that question, but nevertheless I don't regret seeing the movie. There were good moments in it and the plot showed promise, some scenes had great cinematography – enough for me to recommend the movie to someone to watch (with the provisos I have listed above). Would I watch this movie again? – Which is the ultimate test for a really good movie for me, – no, I wouldn’t…

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