Manchester By The Sea -Review and Analysis.
A drop dead Masterpiece.
Manchester by the sea is a story of Pain. Pain felt differently by different people but caused more or less by the same incident.
kenneth lonergan’s movie “Manchester by the sea” is a story of Lee Chandler(Casey Affleck), a janitor in the city of Boston, who goes through his routine work of cleaning toilets and more often than not, taking up extra work to keep himself busy, like fixing electric fans and taking out garbage for his customers, and all this while Lee is shown with an unexplained anti-social behaviour. He gets a call finding that his brother, Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler)is hospitalized and later finds out that Joe has died and he is the guardian of his 16-year-old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
So this was the mere overview of the story. But the story is not what makes the movie a masterpiece. It is the characters.
The movie starts showing a time in the spring season, giving different shots of calm water (sea) and a very happy and mischievous fun moments of supposedly uncle and nephew with pleasant jazz in the background.But then, there is a sudden change of scene and season and we now see a man shovelling ice off the pathway in winter. This is one of the key elements of the movie — Throwing contrasting sentiments without any prior notice.
Seasons in this movie play a climacteric role. — Spring to winter shift depicts the past while Winter to Spring paint the present. And these intervals are either Palliative or cataclysmic.
The movie goes on, where incidences are shown where we deduce that Lee is an anti-social and a frustrated person (Bar scenes where he doesn’t reciprocate interest in ladies and beats up people over trivial matters). Lee seems to be extremely troubled man.
While Lee drives back to Manchester to see his brother, he is obviously in distress, as Lee gets agitated by people who aren’t driving fast enough, but still the director chooses to play the same happy, pleasant jazz in the backgroud. Maybe delineating the fact that ‘the world will always be oblivious to the agony you are in’.
In the hospital, when Lee finds out Joe died, he is exceptionally calm and instantly takes up the responsibilities of the funeral, while he is still grasping the death. There is an elevator scene, where Lee goes to see the body of his brother, we get an unannounced flashback of the time when his brother is first diagnosed with the disease. By setting the two scenes in the same building but years apart, it may make us wonder if we have misunderstood that Joe’s died.
Again, when Lee and Patrick visit the Lawyer to read Joe’s will, where Lee is asked to be his guardian, we go to the most crucial flashback, giving us the insight to the pain that is going in Lee’s mind, for the first time.
And also explaining why he can’t father the boy, despite his utmost love for him.
Lonergan’s this style of signalless flachbacks tends to keep audiences on their toes as they are constantly trying to decipher where those scenes go in the timeline. But why not do it as other movies show flashbacks? like zooming in into the eyes of the character or blurring of the picture, so that we know what to expect. Maybe the answer to this is “fluidity of time”, turning clocks backwards and forwards tells us that time is arbitrary and how the time in the past is tormenting Lee in the present.
Lonergan cuts out all the crap that can be assumed and focuses on one and only one thing — Grief. When co-members of Patrick’s ice hockey team whisper within themselves ,“Is he The Lee Chandler?”, we tend to think that Lee must be someone well-to-do person, who somehow tragically is now just a janitor. But lateron, after the fire scene, we know what was the reason. Obviously, there must have been a lot of rumors and a hell lot of drama between Lee and his wife Randi(Michelle Williams), but since it is too-obvious , Lonergan cuts out this crap, and focuses on the aftermath. How noone seems to provide Lee a job, because, rumor must have had it, it was him who burned down his children.
Life in its most realest form is a string of unassuaged pain, unlike movies. and this is one of the movies portray that. How Ironic!
The boat in this movie is so much more than just a boat. This boat symbolises solace in times of grief and different characters find it differently.
The boat is named after Joe’s and Lee’s mother “Claudia Marie”. We depict this from the tombstone shown after Joe’s death.
For young Patrick, time on Boat meant, fun fishing time with his idolized dad and darling uncle, while for teen Patrick, it became a means by which he could still retrieve those moments.
For Joe, driving the boat was a secluded leisure time away from his alcoholic wife who didn’t care for his son as much as he’d want her to.
For Lee, the Boat was the eyewitness of the entire change of himself. Moments on the boat would make Lee go back to the time when he has everything and he was everything he wanted, which he felt too guilty to feel again. That is why he refrains from getting onto the boat while Pat’s learning to drive.
Patrick — He is a confused and perturbed kid. He doesn’t show but he tries very hard to fit into the “Cool” gang of people, like being a part of a band, basketball team, hockey team, constantly abusing, dating two girlfriends simultaneously and entertaining friends even when he isn’t in a right state of mind to. He doesn’t cry after seeing the dead body of his father and has sex that same night, but he is also this vulnerable kid, who gets a panic attack seeing a frozen chicken and has a breakdown at the idea of keeping his dad’s body in the freezer, until season is right enough to bury him.
He cares about his uncle and his mother, even though both cannot reciprocate the kind of care he needs. He cared about and idolized his father and continued to keep the promises his dad made him keep,even after he passed away.
Lee — He is a person whose past is painting the days of his present.The flashbacks from Lee’s memory are the events that changes him completely and he cannot shake them off (When he says he cant’t beat it). They are the reasons why he is terrified to be Pat’s guardian or engage in any romantic relationships. He is enormously allicted by his past yet he refuses to confront into anyone. He even tells Randi , there’s nothing left inside of him because he feels dead inside. But at the same time, happy past memories torture him so much that sometimes he is opposite of dead; he is throbbingly alive.
Manchester by the sea is both Lee’s deep drown desire and his nightmare. it is here where he had and lost everything. And beyond which, he feels he is incapable of Human connections.
Even though the audience is busy stitching together the snippets of the movie’s timeline, the Central Mystery of the film is to determine whether there is a possibility for Lee to change and leave behind the past. Whether or not he will ever be connect to or be responsible for another human being.
But towards the end as the season is transitioning from winter to spring again, Lee returns to the boat with Patrick just like at the start of the movie and he atleast knows that he is capable of letting go for once and rekindle human connections, even though in small limited steps. Just like he decides to move out of his old place to a newer one with extra bedroom so that Pat can stay over sometimes at night. He recognizes that some emotional being still exists in him and doesn’t deny its potential further. We finally see him smiling and mean it while on the boat, with Pat and his girlfriend.
Happiness and Conscience don’t do well together, the more conscience you have, the less happy you tend to be.
P.S. I am not professional at movie reviewing. I am just a movie buff and this is my first review. If you’d like to review my review, I’d appreciate that very much and it would help me improve. So, feel free to comment down below or email me : firstname.lastname@example.org