Manchester by the sea: A nod to the random drama of reality.
- Spoilers ahead.
I am going to start this with a genuine bow to the masterfully realistic writing of director and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan.
The Gangs of New York and Analyze that writer has succeeded in writing one of the most, ironically, dramatic film I have seen in a while by making it so extremely realistic.
The film starts with Affleck’s character hearing about his brother’s passing. He goes off to where his brother lives, meets up with his nephew and organizes the funeral. As the films goes on you learn about his terrible history with the town. He was married with three kids and his house burnt down and only him and his wife survive. You also learn that his brother left everything to the nephew and gives Affleck guardianship over his son and his assets till eh turn 18.
I believed for quite a while that what is called “movie magic” is all about films making sense, following a somewhat guided yet artistic path that differs at least slightly from reality. Drama makes sense, things go according to “plan”, the plan being a certain script with numbered lines. Lonergan threw all of that out in the closest trash can he came across and wrote this subtle drama of things going as randomly and unorganized as it would have in reality. The film could have easily been improvised, it’s like things went randomly on set, actors just improvised and they just decided to shoot. You will understand what I mean when you take a look at the scene where they were trying to put Michelle Williams’ character in an ambulance and they couldn't lift her or when Casey Affleck’s character's nephew passes by the cemetery holding a stick and trying to push it into the ground and he fails, so he throws it away, or when Affleck’s character finds a random tennis ball on the ground by the end and plays around with it. Those subtle random scenes gave a realistic feeling to the flow of things, things feel like they are not written down, they feel like they just happened.. life-like.
The scene that takes the cake here though, besides Affleck’s master scene of course where he was explaining to the police what happened to his house and then he tries to kill himself, is the scene where Michelle and Affleck bump into each other and she goes on a nervous blabber telling him how she was sorry for what she had said after the indecent and how her heart was broken. Obviously, their acting was incredible, but my point here is the writing/directing. They started talking over each other, the guilt and restlessness are present, they say what seems like what was coming to their minds at that moment. Again, glorious randomness and unorganized mess. This was for me one of the most realistic conversations I have seen on a screen. It didn't solve anything. It was random, unsure and unsettling.
The film also ends on a more or less realistic note, Casey’s character doesn't give it all up for his love of his nephew, he doesn't just fulfill his deceased brother’s wish, he does what he just simply can. He cannot just magically get over the incident that pushed him out of Manchester, so he goes on doing what he’s doing the way he knows how.
I can go on and on about how subtle, randomly realistic script it was, so I will just move on to the acting. Casey Affleck did a brilliant job. His agony-filled performance will break your heart. I believe that he was the perfect fit for the role and it is for sure a milestone for his stardom, whether he gets his OSCAR this year or not.
This film is a must watch for drama enthusiasts who appreciate a great dose of reality and a heartfelt Oscar worthy performance as subtle as its film’s writing/directing.