Manchester By The Sea; True to depression but lacking in characterization


Ok just to get this out of the way, I’ll be posting my Fences, Paterson and 13th review before I finally give my top 10 movies of the year in a separate post. I’ve been trying all means to find and watch movies that I’ve been hearing great things about, so yeah the rush is real and it’s almost finished. I just wish I had more time to watch a whole lot more movies but I’m pretty stoked I got to catch so many great films this year.

Manchester By The Sea is a sappy,draining and depressing study of grief that wallows within itself and never becomes anything more. There’s not even a hint of closure or an indication of change (for better or worse). Lee’s (protagonist) story is mired in unchanged melancholy and the portrait of depression is hardened in its own malaise and despair. I have a feeling the film wanted to be as true in portraying depression as possible which would actually probably be an accurate one. The feeling that nothing’s changing and the constant ‘unfeeling’ nature of the protagonist mirrors the torment of depression. There’s no character progression and no reprieve. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD.

Part of that stems from Lucas Hedges character, Patrick, who’s abrasive and self-centered nature does not allow our self-defeating protagonist (Lee) opportunities to challenge his own state of mind. At least if his character were kinder and more helpful, Lee can be adequately fleshed out…Refuse his kindness and we know he doesn’t want to burden the people around him…Accept the kindness and we know he’s on the difficult path to recovery. As Patrick constantly dwells in the comparatively minute (and bratty) troubles of his own self-centered universe, Patrick is a character who’s essentially as removed from things as his uncle is, and is cut off from the potential complexity of the film’s characterization. Uncle Lee constantly bails him out and accedes to his ridiculous requests but all he gets is even more hate. In the end, it just gets really frustrating to watch…and not in the way that’s powerful,moving or symbolic of anything. I was also hoping we got more scenes out of Michelle Williams, who’s brilliant and heartfelt performance really touched me.

As a film, Manchester By The Sea is pretty decent. It’s overwhelming depressing tone produces some really powerful quiet moments and moments that tear into you. I thought the movie could do with some positivity and kindness (especially with Lucas Hedges’ character), but I get the point. I’m not a big fan of Casey Affleck’s acting, but considering the script he had to follow, his measured and sullen demeanor actually perfectly suited the role. His character often retreats within himself and highlights the sense of burden that constantly eat away at him. Even with the colour gradient of the film’s cinematography, Manchester By The Sea is shot through washed-out hues of blue and white which really captures the sense of melancholy, as if the present is a watered-down version of the past…more meaningless and hopeless than before. For viewers who appreciate the composite elements of the film that all reflect a certain feeling the film is trying to portray, Manchester By The Sea might not be so much overwhelming as it is true; It sticks to the veracity of portraying depression. But as a film, I just didn’t take too much to it. I felt like the film drifted from one rut to another, moved from one sad moment to another, without really exploring beyond what makes it so depressing.

Rating: 7.5/10    I’m generally ok with Casey Affleck and his character. Although abit muted, I don’t blame him for it, he had to play the character that was written for him. I’m more disappointed in the characters around him. I wonder why Michelle Williams had such little screen time, considering the fact that her one scene was the most powerful scene in the whole film. I thought her character would have given the film a more varied perspective and nuance. I also thought Lucas Hedges’ character’s bratty and self-centered attitude took away the power of the film and was frankly very irritating.

Still a decent and heart-breaking film overall and I respect the fact that the film was true to its themes the whole way, so I still recommend it 🙂

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Matt says:

    If this isn’t my favourite of the year, it’s close. I thought it was much easier to watch than a lot of people did. Kenneth Lonergan had such an impressive ability to find humour in the saddest of situations without seeming like he was going out of his way to “be funny”. I just thought everything about the film just rang so true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. katelon says:

    I haven’t seen the film yet, so can’t comment on it. I have in the past though suffered from horrible depressions. People often abandon depressed people, or attempt to ignore the depression or tell the person to get over it. So as a depressed person you are often left alone, judged or ignored, while you are desparately trying to hold on to life and look for some warmth that will give you a tether to hold on to. I’m glad that our culture is starting to acknowledge this condition and bring some empathy to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hely N. says:

    Well, you’ve got the depressing thing right. I watched it on Christmas (not one of the best decisions I’ve made so far ha ha). Great review, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Damien Riley says:

    Flat for me. Didn’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      I didn’t really like it but I still think it is an important film to raise awareness and bring light to the hidden suffering of people with depression.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. bloggeray says:

    I dearly wanted to read the whole review. I wanted to know why you didn’t like it. But spoilers meant I had to leave it.
    Congratulations on getting the chance to watch it. Now I guess you’d award Moonlight the Best Film award at FANA.


  6. Flat, dull, lifeless…I could go on, but that’s how I felt about this one. A slice of life scripts are a dime a dozen, and if you’re going to make one, it better be damn good. You’re absolutely right about the lack of character progression….it just went….nowhere. Nothing. Nada. Meh. Great review! I wish Michelle Williams had been in this more…she shined the brightest to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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