Manchester by the Sea – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

machester-by-the-seaManchester by the Sea – 4/5 – As we head into the final stretch of the year; we get to the films that are mostly indicative of two things:

The Winter Blockbusters (usually something Star Wars)

Oscar bait

No matter which one it is, the last quarter is filled with the most variety of choices.  For everything you would expect, you will find those down to earth stories that stick out from the rest of the pack.  Manchester by the Sea is something that stands out and digs deep beyond what you would expect.  Even for its slow methodical approach; Manchester by the Sea is one of the most endearing tales of the year.

Premise:  As an unexpected event happens; an Uncle becomes entrusted to care for his nephew.  Through fateful circumstances; each of them will learn what it means to move forward and live with the changes that life brings.

This film has some of the best overall acting I have seen in a film all year.  From the main to the secondary characters, they are truly magical in their own rights.  I would recommend referring to the film’s IMDb page for the full list.  Here, I will highlight the main characters:

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler

Kyle Chandler as Joe Chandler

Lucas Hedges as Patrick

These three actors go beyond the typical archetypes and create some of the best standout performances this year.  What they do is breathe intuitive detail into living through the harsh consequences compounded by the trials and tribulations that happen unexpectedly in a small community.  They show how certain things (both physical and emotional) can weight on the human psyche.  There is an astute feeling that comes across as each of the actors exudes raw talent on the screen.  This kind of bravado trickles down to the rest of the cast; creating a true sense of the human condition.  It is that complexion that strikes the genuine chord of characterization; creating an enthralling aura for the audience to gravitate too.  You have that true gripping essence of seeing a reflection of your own persona in each of the characters.  The combined cast also do a masterful job in going beyond plot point inference.  You feel pure meaning through the distinct and sincere personalities in each of them.  Even if they are barely on screen; there purpose helps flesh out a believable world.

The direction unfolds in a way that resembles the likes of storytelling without bounds.  What I mean is that the director gives you plot progression that doesn’t correlate to any rigid outline, genre or common three act progression.  This aspect pulls from the essences of what defines an Indie film; everything unfolds organically and decisively through the characters.  What you have is an honest tale of people facing an unexpected dilemma and learning to live through it ‘everyday’.  Moments aren’t pushed through convenient devices, cliché motives or genre/camera inducing techniques.  Everything unfolds through the eyes of the characters.  This bodes well for creative fervor; allowing for details to be broaden and originality to seep in through an unique experience.  You come to see a complexion of a living story.  The interactions are beyond situational setups and the sudden ‘fateful’ encounters aren’t predictable.  Everything happens as if you are there experiencing the highs and lows of family drama.  As you watch the main three live through specifics that happen (both past and present), the slow methodical approach allows you to feel the endearment of the family/friendship bonds.  This simplistic approach allows for tone and themes to become one; focusing on the ‘life’ of people instead of engross in false cinematic detail.  Even for the greatness that the simplistic direction brings, the slow approach does create scenes that become generic ‘filler’ to the main story.  Even as there is a need to fill the gaps, these slow moments are few and far between.  What does happen is that you gradually see the full spectrum becoming enhanced by the layers of emotional and personal choices made by the main characters.  Once this living story hits the pivotal ‘climatic’ moment, it becomes all too apparent what decisions have to be made.  Even when this leads to a predictable ‘send-off’ epilogue; it comes across real enough to create something of an important message about family.

One of the standout parts (beyond the characters) is how everything unfolds through visual appeal.  For an indie film, the cinematography is some of the best I have seen.  Keeping the background/props to an aesthetic of general complexion; you see how the small towns in New Hampshire to the seafaring travels of the main characters create something visually important to the story.  This living/breathing world pulls through an experience that strikes an emotional chord.  This allows you to see a fusion of visuals to storytelling that doesn’t happen very often.  This highlights how the director stays true to the ‘living’ part of the story.  The score is very subtle (at best) and really has no importance to the film.

Manchester by the Sea is one of the best films of the year.  Staying true to the heart of the story, this film gives you the essence of how a creative eye can produce something amazing through simplistic detail.  From the characters to the setting, there is enough here for a great time.  If you’re a fan of Indie or original films, this is one for you.  It is worth the full price at the theaters.

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