Earlier this week Candice and I saw the fourth of this year’s Best Picture nominees. Manchester by the Sea is both a tragic story and a well-crated, artful movie. It is very much a deserving nominee for the Oscar for Best Picture of the year.
The script is the first star here, in that the movie tells a story full of flashbacks and dreams that let the story unfold at a pace that is never rushed yet seems appropriately paced. Lee Chandler – played masterfully by Casey Affleck – returns to his hometown after his brother Joe dies of heart failure. He quickly learns that Joe has made him the guardian of his 16-year-old son, Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges. The relationship of Lee and Patrick could normally be seen as sharing a common grief – if from different perspectives – but as the movie unfolds it becomes clearer that Lee’s grief is much deeper and longer, and is sparked by a return to a town he had to leave in order to live.
There is a great deal to unpack in this movie. First of all, it takes the viewer seriously. This movie looks at the lingering – perhaps never-ending – affects of unspeakable tragedy, and accepts that neatly tied bows are for sit-coms, not life. However, there is also a good bit of humor in this movie. One reviewer noted that Lee and Patrick – for all the awkwardness in their relationship – make a great comedy team. There were numerous times when our audience was laughing out loud – appropriately – at the short comments that punctuate the dialogue. Heck, just watching Lee learn of – and then try and negotiate – Patrick’s two simultaneous romantic relationships is a mini-comedy in and of itself.
As Candice and I drove home from seeing Manchester-by-the-Sea, we commented on the Irish-Catholic overlay to this movie. In reflection, part of the tragedy of the story is the loss of exceptionalism felt by the white male. That the prerogatives of the white male exists can easily be seen in Lee’s ordeal at the Manchester police station. This line of thinking is developed more fully in A.O. Scott’s review of the movie for the New York Times, and this element helps make the movie relevant in this day and age.
Manchester-by-the-Sea is a tragic story, but a movie well worth seeing.
So now with the fourth movie under our belt, here’s my (always changing) ranking:
1A. Hidden Figures
4. La La Land
We are hoping to catch a couple more before Candice heads out of town…and I’ll be left to my own devices to watch what’s left.
In any event, this is shaping up to be a great group of Best Picture nominees.
More to come…