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QUICK LOOK: Manchester by the Sea

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Treading blindly through upended emotions of remorse and apathy, Manchester by the Sea—a movie written and directed by the psycho-analytical maestro, Kenneth Lonergan—wades the viewer through puddles of the uncomfortable and unpredictable stages of grief and forgiveness. While it might be cliché, the picture brutally assaults the viewer with a myriad of emotions, characters, and ideas in a brief two-hour stint. Watching this movie is an exercise in understanding our own tolerance to the most volatile of life’s experiences. 

Casey Affleck plays a janitor, Lee Chandler, who gets a call that his older brother had passed away and is thrusted into the sole responsibility of taking care of his only nephew, Patrick Chandler (Lucas Hedges). From the first scene of these characters’ interaction, it is clearly visible through their stiff body language and harsh words of Affleck and Hedges that their backstories are knotted tighter than a boat docked from sea.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Kenneth Lonergan says his work is driven by exploiting “a large part of yourself [that] is hidden from yourself, and comes out in all sorts of strange and interesting ways.” Manchester is no exception.

In addition to the intricately written dialogue, the cinematography helps shade the vivid portrait of Lee’s dueling experiences by flipping between recollections of Lee’s memory and present reality. In the picture’s flashbacks, the colors are noticeably unsaturated and create a dreamlike purgatory experience. The present time is sharply contrastive and wallows in the stark and drenched coloration of the character’s experience.

Most noticeably, the picture doesn’t tell how the main character deals with grief. Instead, the viewer is forced to passively witness the blockage and confusion of the main character’s ability to process his emotions. These subtle moments fill the film with crafted characters who, with the simple flick of a finger, display overwhelming intolerance, emotion, and suffering. It is a true experiment of torture and empathy for the human experience.

Manchester by the Sea isn’t a comfortable movie. In netting an impressive collection of Oscar and Golden Globe nods, the picture evidently resonates with society in a too-real-to-function format. Not a first date movie by any means, but a brilliant movie to form a deeper connection with intrinsic and underappreciated human ability to endure the stinging emotions of love, grief, and remorse. 

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