Showcasing realistic grief in cinema?
“Manchester by the Sea” is directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan and it is the story of Lee Chandler and how he is unexpectedly faced with the guardianship of his nephew after his brother dies. First of all, this is the best movie I have seen in the past year as it just astounded me in every single way because of its masterclass acting and screenwriting. In my opinion, this is what movies should stand for and it is so refreshing to watch a film yet so simple but with such a substantial emotional load.
The story of the film is so realistic and heartbreaking that it is tough to imagine people actually face these kind of experiences during their lifetimes. Every detail of the story is built on dialogue; this film features one of the most natural dialogues ever to be put on screen. It flows in such a way which makes it nearly impossible at some moments to figure out if you are watching a film or just people having a real conversation. One of the most common issues that films which are heavily based on their dialogue may have is that it can drag after a while and become boring, but this is not the case here. After the movie ended, I was so immersed into everything that had happened that I could have watched more, taking into account that this film has a two hours plus runtime.
Now let’s talk about the acting featured in this film. The best word to describe it’s “flawless”. There is not a single dull moment when someone could get up and say “these are actors and I see them acting”, even though you have this idea implanted in your head. But the best way to describe the acting is to compare the two main leads from this film with the ones from another film that also came out last year and that is “Fences”.
Each of these films showcase a different style of acting, two styles that are at opposite endings of the spectrum, but at the same time acting is all about exploring the nature of someone’s being in all of its diversity. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis performances from “Fences” are all over the place as they use loud acting and exteriorisation to express their feelings. On the other hand, Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams approach a more subtle technique by focusing on the internal changes of their characters. I’m not in the position to say which style is better, but each performance is now a milestone in what acting stands for.
This film focuses on the emotions of a being by exploring grief and pain. The picture trusts your patience and as the story unfolds and you go past a certain scene- also the most meaningful one, but I will not spoil it for you-, certain elements will become clear and the whole experience takes a new turn. Many details are introduced through flashbacks, but here this term is used to help the continuity of the story as it offers the audience a better understanding by comparing elements from present with ones from the past. For example, the scene in which Lee is faced with the guardianship of his nephew represents responsibility. But in contrast with this, the image then cuts to the past and illustrates the main character abusing substances and acting recklessly around his wife and children.
In the end, “Manchester by the Sea” reminded me why films have such a massive impact on my life and helped me understand them in a refreshing way. I will not say that this movie is perfect (even though I would want to) because there is no such thing as that, but it is, in my opinion, one of the best recent films one could watch.