Wednesday, 15 March 2017

''Manchester by the Sea'' (2016 film)- Review

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Released: 2016
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


''Manchester by the Sea'' is a gorgeous masterpiece, a cinematic achievement. In its emotional content it is raw and real, taking us into the depths of human emotions in a way that we can all feel it, relate to it. 

The protagonist is Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), who works as a janitor in Quincy, Massachussets . From the very first time we meet him we can understand that he is depressed, that he finds no purpose in life. When he comes to know that his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), has suddenly passed away, he rushes to Manchester-by-the-sea (where Joe used to live). There, he is perplexed to know that in his will, Joe had named him the guardian of his teenage son, Patrick (played by Lucas Hedges). He plans to take Patrick with him to Quincy- much against Patrick's will as he has many friends and is involved in many extracurricular activities in Manchester. However, Lee has to wait in Manchester till the burial of Joe, who cannot be buried right now because of the snow caused by the New England winter. Over the following weeks, Lee and Patrick slowly reconnect through both misunderstanding and understanding, disagreement and agreement.

From the very beginning of the film we can understand that things have fallen apart for Lee. Flashbacks show us that there was a time he had a happy family life, with his wife (who is played by Michelle Williams), three children, back when he, like Joe and Patrick, used to live in Manchester-by-the-sea. I asked myself what could have happened, what exactly could have happened that Lee has such a different, sadder life now? Perhaps an ugly divorce? But when I came to know what actually happened, it broke my heart. It really, really did. I cannot express how shocked I was. Lee's past is revelead around halfway into the film and when I came to know about his past the film got a new momentum in my eyes. It was then that the character felt so real, so fleshed out. It was then that the film got its emotional momentum and this explained a lot of things in the film. It was heartbreaking but it is this revelation, along with other small revelations, that made the film as emotionally overwhelming as it is. Though it had started as pretty emotional, Lee's tragic, heartbreaking background helped me to really get inside the film, to feel the characters, to understand the situation, to cry along with them.

The emotional tone of the film is supported by the surroundings itself: there is the wintry Manchester, snow on both sides of the road, wintry and cold, and just then you can catch glimpse of the sea, so calm, so gentle. It is in this winter that the entire story takes place. The haunting background music adds a lot to the story as well.

The reason that the film becomes so unforgettable is the fact that we can feel the characters, we can feel how they feel and why exactly they feel that way. I could understand why exactly the conflicts arose between Lee and Patrick. I could understand why exactly Lee and Patrick had the disagreements that they had and I could understand that none of them was to blame to for it, that they both were right in their own way. I loved their developing chemistry (there is a very touching scene in which Patrick has a panic attack and Lee consoles him, calling Patty, which was his nickname for Patrick when the latter was just a child). Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges are excellent in the roles. Then there is Michelle Williams playing a character, though having comparatively less screen presence, moves us anyway with her past and what she has endured. These are raw, real characters and this is where the success of the film lies. It took me right into the depths of the troubles, depression and sufferings that the characters are going through and it made me feel for them. How can I possibly not  love a film that is so emotionally overwhelming, so real?


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