We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.
However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.
So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy. 2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.
TLDNW: 1 Word
TLDNW: 20 Words
Lucas Hedges should win every award. Casey Affleck should cool it. Wait. Is that Matthew Broderick? What the hell is he doing here?
TLDNW: 500 Words
Four out of Four Stars
Manchester by the Sea tells the story of Lee, quiet and solemn, working in Boston as a custodian for a large apartment block. His brother, Joe, dies suddenly leaving Lee the only guardian for Patrick, Joe’s son. The rest of the film unfolds as the audience discovers Lee’s tragic past, and Patrick’s uncertain future. Patrick is played by the incredible Lucas Hedges who is so believable and funny as 16 year old Patrick.
Okay, okay, I know – Casey Affleck is a creep. He is fighting some major sexual assault allegations and rightfully so- he sexually assaulted someone. So I’m going to say this off the hop. I’m going to remove art from artist in order to write this review. I want to be able to write openly about a movie that I really liked – it’s just tough when the main actor is super gross.
The biggest thing is that I do think Casey Affleck deserves the Oscar. He is fantastic in this movie. He’s subtle and quiet (a trait I think is lost on the academy) and does such incredible justice to the script. However, I think the fact that he sexually assaulted a number of people should stop him from winning the Oscar. It happened to Nate Parker, and it should happen to Casey. Unfortunately he’s white so he’ll win anyway.
Okay, back to separating art from artist. Manchester by the Sea is a masterpiece. The acting is impeccable, the story is devastating and it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever heard. That last point is what I want to focus on in this review. The script is beautiful. More than clever or funny (of which it is both), it is so real. Kenneth Lonergan (writer/director) captured domestic life in New England and builds tension and tragedy in such a perfectly real-to-life way.
The film is long, almost 2 and a half hours, but never feels like it. The script unfolds in a very slow way, but never feels dragged. I found myself sitting and watching and thinking, “why am I watching these scene? Why is this happening here? And now?” Many of the scenes are not plot based. They are character based. I think one of the things we need to start focusing on in film (and this is contradictory to my review of Lion but I can believe two things) is using script to develop character on their own and not tie it so deeply into plot. In fact I kept waiting in Manchester for something to happen. I kept saying, okay what’s going to be the climax of this film. Spoiler alert- there isn’t really one. Yes, things happen, and yes most of those things are sad, but plot wise it doesn’t move very far.
But what Lonergan does is so remarkable. He develops characters through plot. He uses plot points (owning a boat, losing your virginity, joining a band, getting a job, seeing you ex-wife pregnant) as catalysts for characters to change and learn. He uses story as a means, not an end. The end result, then, is a beautiful look at how we deal with grief and family. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s just too bad Casey Affleck is an abuser.