Movie Review – Manchester by the Sea


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Before you go any further, here’s something you should know : This movie isn’t fun. This isn’t a movie you watch with some friends and a lot of popcorn or a lot of friends and some popcorn. There are no headshots or training montages or inspiring speeches to keep you hooked. The movie, simply put, is real. Nothing really happens that wouldn’t happen out of the ordinary. This isn’t a movie you go around recommending to people, because chances are they won’t appreciate it. But if you are lucky, this is a movie you connect with – the deepness of it and the sad poignant reality that you just can’t stop regretting some choices in life.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a moody, social misfit with a penchant for dropping unnecessary f-bombs. He works as a janitor, spending his free time in bars and by himself with his TV. Although he is not exactly polite, he is competent enough to keep his job. When his brother dies from a heart attack, he is entrusted the job of taking care of his brother’s teenage son – Patrick, who has two girlfriends, plays hockey and basketball for his school, is in a band and all that teenage edginess. Lee, somewhere in the mid-thirties, who has ghosts of his own that he can’t escape from, who cannot make small talk with anyone because of his past and has the bare essentials to make ends meet. Oh wait. This doesn’t transform into a movie of fun misfits, ending with a bond between uncle and nephew, with them sailing into the sea with a backdrop of the sun setting over Manchester. It just happens as life does – bleak. Morbid. Periods of vast nothingness. And finally, just at the end, a small sliver of hope that although things will never be normal, they just might be okay.


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Although the film is about the deepest of human emotions – death, guilt and everything that comes with it, the characters don’t portray them as we are led to believe. Like Prakash Raj explains in “Velli Thirai”, there are no dramatic outbursts of sob fests. Instead, there is just a cold air of grief about them. Probably enhanced by the Manchester winter, but that’s just it. Death is given the role of secondary priority, with pizza taking the primary. And nobody is accused of it. While at first, the concept seems alien to those of us who have grown up watching the opposite from tamil movies, it grows on you. You get to understand why they behave as they do as the movie unfolds and the flashback rolls in. Casey Affleck, already excellent, goes further along. With the looks of a man who can’t forgive himself and a man who has been entrusted with a job he can’t do, fully knowing that the alternative is to let his nephew live with strangers, conflicted with his own interests against a kid aged 16 who is as stubborn as he himself is, filled with beer and anguish and anger he can’t take out on anybody, being stuck in a place that only gives him bad memories, he nails the part perfectly. Combined with that voice of his that sounds like melted butter, it is to accept that he’s merely an actor who’s doing what he said and not really living through them.

While La La Land was hopeful, this movie is forlorn. In contrast to the dance numbers, this movie proclaims a soothing melancholy with every note. The brilliant colour there is matched by shades of snow and grey, fitting the mood of the story. Everything upbeat about La La Land is thrown upside down here. As much as La La Land speaks about the height of life, this is a tragedy about death and the deepness that it comes with. While La La Land feels like a brilliant movie that is charming, this is simply real. This may not be your favourite movie, but it could be the realest.

Reviewed by Shyam Kamal, final year Electronics and Communication Engineering