Tuesday 10 January 2017

Review: Manchester By The Sea

Manchester By The Sea
Cert: 15 / 137 mins / Dir. Kenneth Lonergan / Trailer

Y'know, I don't want to be that guy*1, but I've just watch a good film cropped out of its intended aspect ratio. With Manchester By The Sea projected full-width onto a 2.35:1 screen, the BBFC card was cut-off at the top and bottom since the film's clearly been shot and finalised in 16:9. I'd thought maybe it was just the card, but the closing credits (static on the screen) were far too close to the edges and occasionally cut off, too. And it's not a massive deal-breaker as the film was great anyway, but I'd put a fiver on cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes being pretty livid about it. Ho, hum.

Anyway, Manchester By The Sea is writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's drama about just-surviving janitor Lee (Casey Affleck) in Massachusetts, who learns of his older brother (Kyle Chandler) Joe's death and finds himself looking after his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Demonstrating that angst and frustration aren't just for the young, the film is an ambling study of the relationship between the two in the aftermath of bereavement. Irregularly interspersed with flashbacks of Lee's interactions with his family, the story reveals his own past traumas which he has to deal with before moving on.

The dialogue occasionally whiffs of improvisation, but as long as it's being handled by the main players, there's no real harm done. There's also little-to-no delineation between the main narrative and Lee's flashback sequences. It's quite disorienting at first, but as a way of making the audience work harder I have to applaud it. Michelle Williams is outstanding as always, especially given her limited screen-time here. Lucas Hedges puts in a deceptively complex turn as the emotionally blindsided teenager, but this is really Casey Affleck's showpiece, his character spending the majority of the film in a haunted, socially inept daze. Affleck is a burgeoning master at the meandering introspection of regret.

Okay, it's not quite as heavy as I've made that sound (although it is still fairly heavy), thanks in no small part to Lonergan's screenplay and direction. While the film is never flippant with the frequently recurring themes of death, among the soul-searching are moments of arch and bittersweet comedy, which is perhaps to be expected. But script also has some moments of much darker humour that I almost felt guilty chuckling at*2. Although again, that's much closer to the reality of the situation than many of us would admit. The film's funnier that you'd expect and not as emotionally heavy as A Monster Calls, yet it's still not to be taken on lightly...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Fans of Inside Llewyn Davis should enjoy this.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Well if you watch it at home you'll be able to choose the aspect-ratio you prefer, but sarcasm aside, this is probably a Sunday night DVD.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I think it does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Probably not, but that's not to do the film any disservice.

Oh, and looking at his IMDB page, Kenneth Lonergan really needs to mix it up with his poster designers…

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film stars Michelle Williams, and she was in that My Week With Marylin alongside Pip 'Colonel Kaplan' Torrens.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Yes I do.

*2 It's either blackly-funny in places, or I have an appalling sense of humour. Which I do anyway, so it really could be both.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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