Oscars 2017 Retrospective: Manchester by the Sea

The 2017 Oscar’s featured 9 fantastic films nominated for Best Picture, and so it only felt fitting that we do a retrospective looking back at and reviewing each of the 9 films in question. Every Friday from now on we will be bringing you a new part to this series, culminating in the movie which Comic Fade itself was born out of. To begin I decided to take a look at a personal favourite from last year, the emotional and tragic ‘Manchester by the Sea’.

Manchester by the sea 1

Brutal, witty and beautiful. ‘Manchester by the Sea’ is a poignant look at a broken Boston family coping with the grief following the death of Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler). His brother Lee (Casey Affleck) is roped back to his home town to look after Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedge). Through flashbacks and touching character moments we discover that the broken nature of this family far predates Joe’s death.

One thing that this movie does better than I’ve ever seen on film is create a convincing portrayal of awkwardness; the awkwardness of grief, the awkwardness of family and the awkwardness of parenting a child without a parent. ‘Manchester by the Sea’ is believable owing to how little it focuses on the more horrible elements events of the film. We relate to the characters in their grieving; they don’t scream and sob and throw themselves around as seen in so many lesser movies. You can see the pain on each character’s face, and yet their lives are not entirely consumed by Joe’s death, life goes on in the most mundane of fashions.

Lee Chandler’s cold exterior hides the painful past of a damaged man. His icy outer shell, however, means that any moment where we are allowed an insight into the inner workings of the man is inherently more powerful and tender. Lee is thrust unwillingly into a position as a father-figure to Patrick, and in turn makes an attempt to try rebuild his life in order to care for his nephew. Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedge have a wonderful connection, showing the range of acting at its best. Whether it be through their surprisingly hilarious interplay around Patrick’s multiple girlfriend’s, or Lee’s looking after Patrick through an unexpected panic attack, their dysfunctional relationship is made special by the connection the two actors hold.

Lucas Hedges is a relative newcomer to the acting scene, and here shows the vast potential he possesses. His comedic delivery was the most impressive aspect of his performance; demonstrated in full force by his delivery of moments that would have ruined the experience if they had fallen flat, requiring the delivery to perfection. Manchester by the Sea is punctuated by little touches which take this not overly complicated story and turn it into this breath-taking piece of filmmaking. The direction of Kenneth Lonergan pieces together all the different outstanding elements of the movie with masterful class to create the film; his third outing as director and undoubtedly his best. The music is perfection, avoiding the trap of the modern blockbusters: blaring ill-purposed, wretched music. The orchestral and choir-based score complement every word and action, the pulse of every scene follows each beat of the song. It would be unfair however to move on and not acknowledge the fantastic performance by Michelle Williams. She perfectly portrays everything this film is, vulnerable, emotional, and utterly heartbreaking.

Manchester by the sea 2

The movie, however, is not entirely without blemishes; no piece of filmmaking can be entirely perfect. The ending, in my opinion, is unsatisfying; the arcs of the narrative approach their peak towards the end of the movie, only to be cut off before completion. That is not reflective of the movie as a whole; just one small gripe as – for the most part – I adored everything about Manchester by the Sea. The story has outstanding acting, gorgeous music, perfect editing and at its core, a heart of absolute gold.

Written by: Michael Slavin – @MichaelSlavin98 on Twitter

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